The Brumbies exploded out of the blocks, surging to a breathless33-0 lead in the opening 19 minutes before the Crusaders steadily chipped awayover the ensuing 60 minutes to go down fighting by nine points.
ACT scored seven tries to six but their sensational opening laidthe platform for victory against a thoroughbred New Zealand combinationthat refused to accept defeat.
Winger Mark Gerrard scored a hattrick of tries and fullback JoeRoff, playing for the Brumbies for the last time in his 10-year career,scored two tries to break the Super 12 record of 56 tries held by former AllBlack fullback Christian Cullen.
Roff ended with 22 points in the final in a memorable finish tohis career. "It (33-point margin) got us off to a great start and with ateam like the Crusaders you don't want to be playing catch-up football,"Brumbies captain Owen Finegan said.
"It was just an awesome start. We just started playing a bitof sevens footy then - it was a bit scary ... it wasn't the smartest footy butwe got the result in the end."
It was an extraordinary start to the final by the Brumbies, whowere up against their competition nemesis after losing two previous finals tothe Crusaders in 2000 and 2002. Everything the Brumbies attempted in those pulsating opening 20minutes turned to gold with five tries against the shellshocked Crusaders.
Crusaders fullback Ben Blair had a nightmare match, contributingto the two opening tries with mistakes, but it was the injection of All Blackfly-half Andrew Mehrtens into the final after 24 minutes that turned aroundthe momentum.
The Crusaders hit back with two tries to flanker Richie McCaw andcentre Aaron Mauger to trail 33-14 at halftime and give themselves a chanceof staging a dramatic comeback.
Gerrard charged through to seize the ball from a Blair fumble of aStephen Larkham high kick minutes after halftime to post his third try andpush the Brumbies out to a 40-14 lead, but the New Zealanders clawed back to40-28 with 11 minutes left as they threw everything at the Brumbies.
Roff broke the try-scoring record with his second touchdown of thenight and 57th in Super 12 rugby to clinch the match with eight minutesleft, yet the Crusaders still kept coming. "It's amazing the way things pan out it was just a greatnight - a night I'll always remember," Roff said.
"I don't think the Crusaders will begrudge us that one,they're a great side and we're just so thankful to get a win."
Replacement Casey Laulala scored in the 78th minute and Canterburywouldn't say die even after the full-time siren sounded and strung together 12phases of determined play before Daniel Carter scored off a Mauger grubberkick.
The Brumbies were deserved winners after an outstanding season inthe southern hemisphere provincial series. They recorded eight wins and three defeats in the regular roundsto finish six points clear of the second-placed Crusaders.
ACT once again underlined that they have the most potent attack inSuper 12 with their structured and innovative play. Most of the Crusaders' tries came through driving mauls, whereasthe Brumbies scored several long-distance tries through penetration andbacking up the ball carrier.
Wallaby flanker George Smith, fly-half Larkham, hooker Jeremy Pauland lock Radike Samo were outstanding for the Brumbies, who will also farewellDavid Giffin, Mark Bartholomeusz as well as Samo, who has signed withEngland's Newcastle Falcons.
Paul is likely to follow them overseas while ACT coach DavidNucifora was in charge for the last time after his shock mid-season sacking. "I don't know what to think right now," Nucifora said ofhis mixed emotions.
"At the moment I'm really happy for the whole group, themanagement, the players and the people of Canberra."
Nucifora described the game as "crazy" but said theBrumbies deserved their win as they had been the best side all year.
AFP - 2004.