Brumbies escape to Pretoria
July 21, 2013
Riaan Smit thought his last-minute conversion was good, and he turned away before the ball faded to hit the left goalpost
© Getty Images
The Brumbies defeated the Cheetahs 15-13 in their Super Rugby qualifier at Canberra on Sunday, but only after Riaan Smit had hit the left upright after the siren with a conversion attempt to force extra-time.
The Brumbies enjoyed the lion's share of possession and territory, but the Cheetahs' trademark scrambling defence proved up to the task and the visitors scored the only two tries of the match - through Johann Sadie in the first half and substitute winger Rayno Benjamin win the last play of the game. Benjamin crossed in the left corner in the final minute, but Smit could not land the extra points and the Brumbies escaped with victory to book a semi-final against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Brumbies made a blitzing start and they were rewarded with an early penalty goal through Christian Leali'ifano, but the Cheetahs hit back when outside centre Sadie scored a try in the 16th minute to cap their first attacking raid.
Leali'ifano uncharacteristically missed two penalty shots before finding his range again to give the Brumbies a 6-5 lead at the break, but the Cheetahs drew first blood after the break with a penalty goal to Smit. The Brumbies hit back with three penalty goals to gain the seven-point lead that would prove decisive in a match notable for a hotly contested breakdown battle that stilted momentum for both teams, with referee Glenn Jackson warning both captains to clean up their sides' acts midway through the second half.
Man-of-the-match George Smith was outstanding for the Brumbies, his presence at the breakdown a constant and thorn in the side of the Cheetahs - particularly once Lappies Labuschagne left the field with an eye injury in the final quarter to be replaced by Boom Prinsloo.
Henry Speight produced a powerful performance for the Brumbies © Getty Images
"You are always worrying when a South African guy is having a kick at goal because they are usually dead on the money and fortunately for us it fell our way there," Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said. "I thought there were moments throughout the game when we played some really good rugby. We spoke in the dressing room beforehand about being enthusiastic and out-willing them in those moments, and I thought for the majority of the game we did that."
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss justified his decision to opt for two tap penalties and go after the converted try in the final minutes, rather than shoot for a penalty goal and reduce the margin to less than a try.
"We struggled to get into their half, especially in the second half, and we were losing a lot of ball and giving away penalties," Strauss said. "So we thought let's give it a go and I think it worked out well. It gave us that opportunity at the end and we couldn't just get the draw.
"We're very disappointed to lose tonight and I'm proud of the guys. We had a much better season this year."
Super Rugby semi-finals
1-Chiefs v 4-Crusaders, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
2-Bulls v 3-Brumbies, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Super Rugby final
Winner of the two semi-finals, with the highest-ranked team to host the match
George Smith was named man of the match © Getty Images
The Brumbies survived a stern challenge from the Cheetahs (video available only in Australia)