Jaguares make history by reaching first Super Rugby final after Brumbies rout
BUENOS AIRES – Matias Orlando scored twice and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla kicked 14 points as the Jaguares routed the Brumbies 39-7 on Friday night to reach their first Super Rugby final.
The Argentinians scored 20 unanswered points within 20 minutes of the semi-final in Buenos Aires, led 20-7 at halftime and added three more tries during the second half.
Entering the semi-final after six straight victories, the Jaguares reacted to a 30 000 singing, clapping crowd by winning far more comfortably than expected.
Despite the long flight across the Pacific, the Brumbies were hopeful of making it to the final for a fourth time, having won seven consecutive matches to reach the penultimate stage.
But they struggled in the lineouts and held an advantage only at the scrums, where they won several penalties and shoved the South Americans back several times.
Competing in Super Rugby for only the fourth season, the Jaguares will face the Crusaders or the Hurricanes, who meet on Saturday, in the final next weekend.
If the Crusaders justify their season-long role of title favourites, they will stage the final in Christchurch while victory for the Hurricanes would mean Buenos Aires plays hosts.
Whoever emerges as champions, the Jaguares have been the story of the season, developing from a team that won only four of 15 matches three seasons ago to reaching the title decider.
“This is a dream come true,” said Jaguares and Argentina lock Guido Petti.
“We have come a long way since a disappointing first season not too long ago.
“Each year we have improved, and now we are in the final. We are looking forward to playing the Crusaders or the Hurricanes.
“It would be wonderful to have the final here at our home ground in front of such passionate supporters, but we will not fear travelling to New Zealand.”
Brumbies skipper and flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, one of several in the Canberra team making a final appearance before joining other clubs, said it was “a sad day”.
“I am really disappointed with the result, but the Jaguares were very good and put a lot of pressure on us which, inevitably, resulted in mistakes.
“I am leaving the Brumbies now, but my heart will be with this club forever. I have had wonderful times here.”
The Jaguares were on the front foot from the start, and led after only five minutes when a Toni Pulu blunder enabled former Brumbie Tomas Cubelli to score and Bonilla converted.
A couple of Bonilla penalties stretched the lead to 13 points before Tomas Lavanini barged over following a lineout, and Bonilla converted for a 20-0 advantage.
Although they continued to dominate possession and territory, the Jaguares did not score again before half-time and the Brumbies’ first visit to the Argentine 22 proved profitable.
After sustained pressure, Folau Fainga’a went over for his 12th try this season – a remarkable feat for a hooker and bettered only by Crusaders wing Sevu Reece with 13.
Brumbies needed to score first in the second half to have a realistic chance of clawing back into the game, but could not unlock a superb Jaguares defence.
Instead, Orlando (twice) and Emiliano Boffelli scored tries, two of which Bonilla converted to the joy of the biggest crowd to watch the Jaguares this season.