Lealiifano proves mettle in Brumbies win
March 31, 2013
Christian Lealiifano remained calm under pressure against the Bulls © Getty Images
It was one of those Super Rugby moments that may not only define the Brumbies' season - but also an individual career.
Brumbies vice-captain Christian Lealiifano once again showed why many consider him destined for Australia, calmly slotting a long-range penalty goal at the death to deliver a dramatic 23-20 win over the Bulls in Canberra on Saturday night.
Dead in front, 41 metres out, it was by no means an easy kick. Rugby website Rucking Good Stats calculated a probability of Lealiifano making the kick six times out of every 10 attempts.
That said, he'd already nailed five from six shots for the night, outperforming Bulls sharpshooter Morne Steyn.
But the Brumbies had just squandered an 11-point second-half lead and Lealiifano says he felt the pressure to dig his side back out of trouble.
"A few of the boys sort of tried not to look me in the eye," Lealiifano said. "It was a bit patchy where it was, and I tried to move it forward and do all those kinds of things to try and sneak it in. Luckily enough it went over."
It's not the first time the 25-year-old has plucked a Super Rugby win at the death for the Brumbies, having done so against the Cheetahs in round three last year before his season was cruelled by a season-ending ankle injury.
Appointed as a vice-captain of the side by coach Jake White at the start of this season, Lealiifano said he feels it's his responsibility to perform for the side when it matters most.
"Those kind of moments, you try to step up and if you hit them well you're a good leader, if you don't, (everyone asks) 'What's wrong with this leader?'" Lealiifano said.
The successful penalty kick has kept the Brumbies on top of the Super Rugby ladder ahead of the Chiefs and five points ahead of nearest conference rivals, the Queensland Reds.
Captain Ben Mowen joked he was one of the players that couldn't look Lealiifano in the eye before the kick.
"But one of the big reasons Jake named him vice-captain is because he's a natural leader and can do that under pressure," Mowen said. You want guys to step up and take moments like that and he's proven it time and time again."
The Brumbies celebrated hard after winning despite letting slip an 11-point advantage (video available only in Australia)