The Brumbies were simply not meant to be the best team in the Australian Conference this year.
Both the Reds and the Waratahs looked to be stronger on paper coming into the 2017 Super Rugby season, but – as many an old time fan will tell you – games are not played on paper. Hence why the Brumbies ended up as the Conference champions, mainly because of their domination of their fellow countrymen.
The Brumbies had several standout players in 2017, but it was one of their youngsters who brought his top level game with him every single weekend.
Allan Alaalatoa has burst onto the scene at both the club and national level, finding his way both in the set pieces and in the loose. His work rate around the field is exceptional and at just 23 years of age, he has a decade to hone his scrummaging skills, which are already among the best in the competition.
There are also honourable mentions here for the halfback pairing of Joe Powell and Wharenui Hawera. The two got better as the season progressed
The real disappointment for the Brumbies came after the season ended with their quarterfinal loss to the Hurricanes.
Stephen Larkham has been influential in building this side and coaching it to success, but he is now leaving to take on a full-time role with the Wallabies. The core of this side is arguably one of the most exciting outside of the New Zealand Conference, but you have to wonder if they will be able to press on and grow without their inspirational leader.
It is difficult to travel to Buenos Aires and win, but the Brumbies did just that when they took down the Jaguares 39-15.
It was an outstanding victory in isolation, but when you add in that it was the game that sealed the Australian Conference title it is even more impressive. It was the player’s performance that makes this the best game though, as the Brumbies forwards dominated a talented Jaguares pack as they were led from the front by the likes of Sam Carter and Scott Fardy.
The most startling statistic is that the Canberra-based club made just one handling error in 80 minutes of rugby. Achieving that away from home is an almost impossible task they completed.
The Brumbies lost their Round 8 game to the Melbourne Rebels 19-17. It was a result that looked bad both at the time and at the end of the season as it was the only win the Rebels would pick up all season long.
It was a classic trap game as the Brumbies came into it fresh from destroying the Reds 43-10 and flexing their muscles in the Australian Conference. Instead of pushing on, the Brumbies put in a limp and lacklustre performance that was devoid of energy and inspiration.
Luckily this bad result did not end up costing them a Finals spot.
Reason For Hope
As stated in the intro, the Brumbies wouldn’t have expected to be at this point this season. They may have lost to the Hurricanes in the quarterfinal, but they put together a much more determined and dogged display than many anticipated.
The full-time score of 35-16 flattered the Hurricanes as the Brumbies led by a point going into the break but were worn down by the Wellington side in the second half. Seeing as how no one was giving the Brumbies a shot going into the contest, it was far from a poor result.
The team will now look to build on their Finals appearance and use that momentum to spur a big offseason before 2018.
Overall Grade – B
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