Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said he would approach referee Nic Berry over what he called “dodgy decisions” in the 19-6 Super Rugby Pacific semi-final loss to the Chiefs.

Brodie Retallick’s late try – the only five-pointer on Saturday night – ended the title dreams of Australia’s last hope as the Chiefs locked in a home final next weekend against the defending champion Crusaders in Hamilton.

Australian teams are now 0-16 in Super Rugby finals games on New Zealand soil.

Watch the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific final on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad free, live and on demand

Brumbies star rocked by brutal hit

Larkham acknowledged the quality of the Chiefs, who remarkably missed just five tackles on a wet Waikato night, as well as lamenting some costly mistakes and missed opportunities from the Brumbies.

But he also took aim at Australian whistle-blower Berry with a variety of grumbles.

“A couple of key ones when we’re down on their line and the maul got collapsed and then they dive over the ruck and slap it out of the halfback’s hands,” Larkham told Stan Sport’s Justin Harrison.

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“That one hurt. So we’ll take that up with the ref. There was a high shot on Bobby Valetini just here that went unnoticed or he deemed wasn’t yellow card or red card material, even penalty material…

“Yeah, look, there’s a couple of dodgy decisions there as well. A couple of side entries.

“We wouldn’t have been squeaky clean either, but I think overall the game, the flow of the game was refereed pretty well. Just a couple of key moments again that have really hurt us.”

Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie was excellent, sparking the Retallick try with his fast feet and kicking a monster penalty in the 72nd minute to give his side some breathing room before the knockout punch.

The Brumbies – with Dan McKellar at the helm – also bowed out in the semi-finals last year with a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to the Blues in Auckland.

Larkham’s first emotions on the fulltime whistle were directed towards departing assistant coaches Laurie Fisher and Dan Palmer.

“And, yeah, I felt pretty bad,” Larkham said.

“I mean, the amount of time and effort that those guys have put into this program over the last number of years, and then you go back even further with Laurie … I don’t think there’s anyone who’s contributed more to the Brumbies outside of the playing group.

“So he’s going to be a big loss to the organisation. Looking across at him in the coaches box was a pretty sad moment, to know that he’s not going to be with us next year.”

Larkham also paid tribute to captain Nic White, who is moving to the Force next season, and loose forward Pete Samu, who is taking up a contract with Bordeaux.

“Two big guys there that have put their heart and soul into this club,” Larkham said.

“And they’ve come close, you know, most of the boys here have come close, they’ve had success in Super Rugby AU. But we know that the big one is really playing against the New Zealand teams and winning the trans-Tasman competition and games. So yeah, immediately my thoughts went to all the guys that are moving on from the club.”

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The Chiefs have set up a showdown with the Crusaders for the Super Rugby Pacific title after charging home late to beat the Brumbies in an epic semifinal in Hamilton on Saturday night.

Brodie Retallick powered his way over the line in the 78th minute for the only try of a massively tense 19-6 encounter at a wet FMG Stadium Waikato.

The veteran All Blacks lock finished off a break from Damian McKenzie just prior to bring the 18,500 crowd to their feet, after they had spent the entire contest on the edge of their seats.

In a complete contrast to the massively lopsided semifinal from the night before, this was as intense as it gets, real semifinal footy at its best, where the margins for error were tight and neither side was budging an inch.

Tensions were clearly boiling, with what was on the line, feisty Brumbies captain and halfback Nic White not only continued his running verbal battle with referee Nic Berry from the week before, but went about fighting well above his weight class in taking on Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i.

On a greasy surface, with rain falling throughout the first half, the kicking battle was always going to be key, and while there were a few big duels, the ball was still in play plenty, the game going at hectic pace at times.

So good were the teams in the tricky conditions, in fact, that the first scrum did not pack down till 18 minutes in. When they did lock in, the hosts enjoyed a distinct advantage, having also put the Brumbies’ lineout under huge pressure early, winning a couple against the throw.

Turning with a slender 6-3 halftime advantage, the Chiefs came up trumps with a couple of crunch turnover penalties early in the second stanza, while McKenzie and Noah Lolesio – on after Jack Debreczeni left the park with a nasty head knock in the 31st minute – again trading three-pointers prior to the hour-mark.

But the home side slowly squeezed their opponents when it really counted.

After seeing off the Brumbies’ dangerous rolling maul with quarter of an hour to play, the Chiefs soon then also held the Canberrans up in midfield, and it was from that resulting scrum that McKenzie kicked a crucial 72nd minute long-range penalty from on halfway.

Lolesio banged the restart out on the full, and from there the Chiefs duly went on to seal the deal, having earlier on struggled to kick clear against a gallant Brumbies defence which came up trumps in a massive way in the final few minutes of the first spell.

After Emoni Narawa couldn’t hold on to an in-ball, the Chiefs put on an absolutely massive scrum shunt, but despite a string of penalties on the Brumbies’ line, they just couldn’t find their way over. Samisoni Taukei’aho was held up then Tom Wright gifted them another shot when his dropout found Narawa, only for Luke Jacobson to knock on when charging hard off the back of another scrum.

But in the end, the top seeds were good enough, extending the Aussies’ record in playoff matches in New Zealand to a miserable 0-16.

The ACT Brumbies will fly the Australian flag in the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals after beating the Hurricanes 37-33 in a heart-stopping match in Canberra on Saturday.

Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea was adamant he had scored the match-winner in the 85th minute but referee Nic Berry and TMO Brett Cronan ruled that Brumbies flanker Luke Reimer had got his mitt under the ball.

“I scored it, brother,” Savea told Stan Sport’s Morgan Turinui.

Watch the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific finals on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad free, live and on demand

“Initially I scored it and then he held me up. But hey, it is what it is, man. I’m gutted, but honestly, brother, I’m just really grateful and blessed bro to be here… it came down to that last play and as much as I disagree, that’s just the way footy goes.”

The Brumbies will now play the Chiefs in Hamilton next Saturday after the table-toppers edged past the Queensland Reds 29-20 in an earlier quarter-final.

That was a tense match but had nothing on the see-sawing late game at GIO Stadium as the brave Brumbies repeated last year’s quarter-final win over the Hurricanes.

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“One of the all-time great Super Rugby finals,” Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sport.

Super-sub Reimer also scored a crucial second half try for Stephen Larkham’s side, with backs Ollie Sapsford, Jack Debreczeni, Len Ikitau and Tom Wright grabbing the others.

The Hurricanes only scored three tries to the home team’s five but Brett Cameron’s four penalties kept them in touch throughout.

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“Lukey Reimer – it’s a 15 man effort there, but it takes one guy’s hand to get under the ball and do something special,” Wright told Stan Sport.

“But something special just looks like your job a lot of the time and he gets unrewarded on the TV with a lot of highlights.

“But he’s our go to finisher at the moment and he just did it again. I just tip my hat to Luke – big moment under the sticks against one of the best players in the world.”

It meant another week of coaching for venerable Brumbies assistant Laurie ‘Lord’ Fisher, who is stepping down at the end of the season.

“It was nerve racking, but a magnificent effort by the boys,” Fisher told Stan Sport.

“To defend your line for five minutes against a quality side like the Hurricanes is unbelievable and testament to the courage and desire to win from that group of players.”

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After back to back losses, the Brumbies will be without three Wallabies for their regular season finale against the Rebels on Friday.

And the Blues welcome their skipper back from suspension to host the Highlanders.

Keep checking in for all the latest round 15 Super Rugby Pacific team news.

Watch the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad free, live and on demand

Highlanders steal dramatic victory at the death

BLUES vs HIGHLANDERS in Auckland, Friday 5.05pm AEST

The Blues have regained the services of captain Dalton Papalii for the opening game of round 15 against the Highlanders.

Papalii was initially handed a three game ban for his high shot on Richie Mo’unga but had it reduced to two weeks after impressing World Rugby with a ‘coaching intervention.’

Beauden Barrett remains sidelined with a foot injury while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck remains surplus to requirements.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, have opted for Scott Gregory ahead of Jonah Lowe on the right wing.

It is likely a must win game for the eighth placed Highlanders, who have the Force, Drua and Rebels snapping at their heels for the last finals spot.

BLUES (15-1): Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Caleb Clarke, Harry Plummer, Finlay Christie, Dalton Papalii (c), Anton Segner, Tom Robinson, James Tucker, Patrick Tuipulotu, Nepo Laulala, Ricky Riccitelli, Ofa Tuungafasi

Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, Rob Rush, Akira Ioane, Sam Nock, Stephen Perofeta, AJ Lam

HIGHLANDERS: Mitch Hunt, Scott Gregory, Matt Whaanga, Sam Gilbert, Jona Nareki, Freddie Burns, Aaron Smith, Hugh Renton, Billy Harmon (c), Shannon Frizell, Max Hicks, Pari Pari Parkinson, Jermaine Ainsley, Andrew Makalio, Ethan de Groot

Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Sean Withy, Folau Fakatava, Connor Garden-Bachop, Fetuli Paea.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

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BRUMBIES vs REBELS in Canberra, Friday 7.35pm AEST

The slumping Brumbies will be without key trio Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper and Noah Lolesio for their important clash with the Rebels.

Captain Alaalatoa’s calf injury could also sideline him for the finals while Slipper is on leave after welcoming his first child and Lolesio is out with concussion.

Fred Kaihea and Sefo Kautai will instead start at prop while Jack Debreczeni is a capable replacement at five-eighth.

A positive for coach Stephen Larkham is the return of Wallabies duo Nic White and Cadeyrn Neville as the fourth placed Brumbies try to seal a home quarter-final.

Meanwhile, the Rebels have named Nick Jooste to start in the centres alongside Reece Hodge, who is set to play his 100th game for the club.

“He’s such a great player and the ultimate professional and someone we call Mr Rebel,” Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese said.

“We really want to go out there and put in a performance to make him proud and celebrate a legend of our club.”

BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Wright, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Ollie Sapsford, Corey Toole, Jack Debreczeni, Nic White (c), Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Tom Hooper, Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost, Sefo Kautai, Connal McInerney, Fred Kaihea

Reserves: Billy Pollard, Blake Schoupp, Rhys van Nek, Pete Samu, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Tamati Tua, Jesse Mogg

REBELS (15-1): Andrew Kellaway, Lachie Anderson, Reece Hodge, Nick Jooste, Monty Ioane, Carter Gordon, Ryan Louwrens, Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin (c), Josh Kemeny, Matt Philip, Josh Canham, Sam Talakai, Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon

Reserves: Alex Mafi, Isaac Aedo Kailea, Pone Fa’amausili, Trevor Hosea, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Stacey Ili, Joe Pincus

Referee: Angus Gardner

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Referee: Paul Williams

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HURRICANES vs CRUSADERS in Wellington, Saturday 5.05pm AEST



Referee: Brendon Pickerill

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WARATAHS vs MOANA PASIFIKA in Sydney, Saturday 7.35pm



Referee: Graham Cooper

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FORCE vs CHIEFS in Perth, Saturday 10pm AEST



Western Force v Chiefs @ HBF Park, Perth (20:00)

Referee: Nic Berry

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Brumbies chairman Matt Nobbs dodged one of the all-time bar shouts thanks to breakout winger Corey Toole’s 77th minute game winner in Canberra.

Nobbs had stirred the pot in the build-up to the derby match by stating the once fierce rivalry between the Brumbies and Waratahs was dead, given the ACT club had won the last 10 encounters against their big-city brothers.

The bullish Nobbs also promised to buy all Waratahs fans at GIO Stadium a post-match beer if NSW won on Saturday night, hoping to encourage a strong travelling contingent from Sydney.

Watch the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad free, live and on demand

Brumbies survive epic foot race

Thirsty types in sky blue would have been licking their lips as the Waratahs led for most of the match, even scoring a try to Jed Holloway with 13 men following yellow cards to props Harry Johnson-Holmes and Daniel Botha.

But the Brumbies, long Australia’s Super Rugby standard bearers, again got strong impact from their bench to claw their way back, and Wallabies hopeful Toole sealed the 40-34 triumph by catching Jack Debreczeni’s money ball to score.

Wallabies legend Tim Horan called the action “next level” in commentary for Nine and Stan Sport, as well as one of the games of the season.

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Nobbs’ comments added some much-needed spice to the affair and didn’t go unnoticed by gutted Waratahs captain Jake Gordon.

“According to their chairman it isn’t (a rivalry),” Gordon told Horan.

“We thought it was a great game tonight. We want the rivalry to keep going, we’ve just got to perform better.”

Waratahs score long-range stunner

There were all sorts of eye-catching moments, from Len Ikitau’s brilliant try-saving tackle, Max Jorgensen’s dazzling run for Lalakai Foketi’s score, Mark Nawaqanitawase’s classy chip and chase and the venerable James Slipper finding his way to the line for a double.

“Anytime you beat the Tahs you’re very happy, and (it was) a pretty epic game, really,” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said.

“We had two 14 point swings, one in the first half and one in the second, and we showed really good composure. We put a lot of pressure on their exits in that second half and they made a few mistakes, and then look, we found a way to win that one.”

Hooper sets his winger away

Larkham reserved special praise for Slipper, the incumbent Wallabies captain who has found his second wind in Canberra.

“He’s remarkable in terms of a rugby player and the skills that he has for a front-rower,” Larkham said.

“He probably gives up a little bit of size sometimes… but the impact that he makes around the park is just phenomenal.”

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