Red carded one week, red hot the next.
Luke Jacobson has gone from zero to hero, with his masterclass two-try performance leading the Chiefs to a commanding 40-19 victory over the Brumbies in their round two Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash in Hamilton on Saturday night.
Having been sent off after two yellow cards in last weekend’s scratchy win over the Force in Perth, No 8 Jacobson put that behind him in a huge way, reminding All Blacks coach Ian Foster that he’s well and truly ready to add to the two tests currently on his resume.
Brumbies finish in clinical fashion
In front of 10,684 at FMG Stadium Waikato, in what was the Chiefs’ first home game in a month, the hosts finally refound the attacking mojo they had been searching for, banking a bonus point in their commanding six tries to three victory.
Jacobson bagged a double in the first half on the back of a brilliant Chiefs scrum, which took apart the Brumbies in an area they are usually so strong, while the 24-year-old, who took over the captaincy in the final 15 minutes, racked up a game-high 15 carries and a forward-high 74 metres.
His four defenders beaten were also the highest of any forward on the paddock, his two clean breaks the equal of anyone, while he also made 11 tackles and won a turnover.
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Having run the Crusaders so close in Christchurch next weekend, the Brumbies were a shadow of their usual selves up front, and just couldn’t get anything going to seriously threaten, thanks to some sloppy handling and ill discipline.
With an unfamiliar cushion following the first 40 minutes – the Chiefs’ 19-5 lead was their biggest halftime advantage in their last 14 games – the hosts put the hammer down early in the second stanza.
With the injection of Atu Moli – the four-test All Blacks prop making his return from a year-long stint on the sidelines with a hip injury – a rock solid scrum laid the platform for Alex Nankivell to surge from a nice Jonah Lowe offload, before Damian McKenzie sent all of his 81kg frame hurtling onto a Brad Weber pass to smash his way over.
And just six minutes later, it was Nankivell taking the spoils himself, when McKenzie sent Lachlan Boshier into space and his offload allowed the second five-eighth to cruise in.
The Brumbies finally got one back close to the hour-mark, as two men just onto the field combined, with Issak Fines sniping well and popping a ball for Bayley Kuenzle to finish, while they added one right on fulltime through Rob Valetini, but the Chiefs had the bonus point secure thanks to their 65th minute stunner.
In what may be one of the tries of the season, McKenzie used all his speed to attack from deep, a shift left had Chase Tiatia kick ahead and Kaleb Trask regather, before he fed Anton Lienert-Brown who raced to the left corner in a play which also saw Darcy Swain sin binned for his high shot on McKenzie.
Despite an arduous trek back from Western Australia, the Chiefs were quick out of the blocks, opening the scoring in just the fourth minute from a lineout drive, with lock Tupou Vaa’i the beneficiary, having made a remarkable recovery from what looked a big injury scare when he was flat on the ground in the middle of the park in the first minute of the game. Though he would later be subbed close to halftime.
It didn’t take the Brumbies long to hit back, working from a scrum penalty then a lineout, and catching the Chiefs out on a shortside attack, with Len Ikitau slicing through to level the scores in the 12th minute.
But that would prove to be a rare first-half bright spot for the visitors, as they spent almost all of the next 20 minutes camped in their own half. And the Chiefs indeed made them pay, in somewhat surprising fashion, considering how strong a part of their game the Brumbies’ scrum normally is.
If coach Dan McKellar was worried by Jacobson’s 21st minute effort off the back of a massive Chiefs shunt, then he must have been fair tearing his hair out when there was virtually an action replay on the half-hour mark when Jacobson went in for his double, as the hosts’ pack again marched their opponents backwards at a rate of knots.
At 19-5 down, the Brumbies needed some sort of inspiration, and while former Warriors NRL player Solomone Kata provided several glimpses of his danger with ball in hand from the right wing, they were just far too guilty of fluffing their lines with the basics.
That almost cost them another try after the halftime siren, when man of the moment Jacobson surged 30 metres off a scrum, only for Brad Weber to drop the pass with the line beckoning.
AT A GLANCE
Chiefs 40 (Luke Jacobson 2, Tupou Vaa’i, Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankivell, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Damian McKenzie 5 con) Brumbies 19 (Len Ikitau, Bayley Kuenzle, Rob Valetini tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con). HT: 19-5.