Smith snatches victory for Brumbies
February 26, 2010
Josh Valentine snipes at the Stormers' defence
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A dramatic interception try from openside George Smith propelled the Brumbies to a narrow 19-17 victory over the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.
Smith pounced on a loose pass from Stormers tight-head Brok Harris to canter clear with just three minutes of the game remaining to silence the crowd and fly-half Matt Giteau added the conversion to put the visitors on course for their second victory over the season. Stormers flanker Pieter Louw notched a try in the final play of the game to give his side a chance of snatching a draw, but fullback Joe Pietersen hooked the vital conversion wide of the uprights.
Pietersen and Giteau traded four penalties in an error-riddled game that failed to hit the heights in terms of entertainment, but the Canberra-based victors will not be too concerned after bouncing back from a heavy defeat to the Bulls.
In a week when the standard of the Super 14 and the new law interpretations were called into question following the Chiefs' 72-65 win over the Lions, both sides struggled to string phases together and there was a dearth of quality attacking play.
The teams looked for early momentum from their loose forwards, with Smith and Duane Vermeulen crashing the ball up from deep. Bryan Habana went close to notching the first score of the game with a darting run but was swallowed up by the visitors' defence.
Quick turnover ball was almost exploited by the Stormers after Stirling Mortlock spilled the ball in midfield, but Jaque Fourie's kick ahead fell harmlessly to Brumbies' fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper. Louw missed out on the opening score when his stretch for the line was deemed to be touch-in-goal by the TMO, a tough call on the flanker following some excellent mauling work by the pack.
Pietersen knocked over the opening points after a midfield surge from Juan de Jongh drew a penalty from Smith but Giteau immediately levelled the scores when Andries Bekker was unfortunate to be pinged for offside.
De Jongh had the Newlands faithful on their feet with a brilliant break through the Brumbies' line, but his well-judged chip ahead took an unfortunate bounce and evaded the onrushing Habana. Pietersen's second penalty deservedly extended the Stormers' lead before Ashley-Cooper's mazy run threatened to unlock their defence, only for Gio Aplon to level the Wallaby with a little help from Pietersen.
The Brumbies levelled proceedings with Giteau's second kick, which arrived after Josh Valentine lured referee Craig Joubert into penalising Habana for not rolling away.
The game exploded into life with Rocky Elsom charging at the heart of the Stormers' defence. The flanker brought Giteau into the line before Aplon latched onto the fly-half's offload, tearing away and leading the Brumbies' defence on a dance before being hauled to earth and swiftly turned over. A raking kick from Peter Grant put the Stormers in decent field position but Fourie's handling let the side down as he bore down on the try-line.
After the break, Louw put the home side on the front foot with a blindside break and had Habana not overrun the pass of hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who was excellent all game, the Stormers would have notched the opening try. As it was, the ball was spilled in midfield and the Brumbies were able to clear. Pietersen's third penalty opened up a narrow lead but as before the Stormers handed the points back to Giteau when Harris was pinged for going off his feet.
Pietersen missed a long-range kick from just inside the opposition half and the Brumbies were disappointed to see their best period of possession ended by an accidental offside. Giteau finally opened up some space and used Christian Lealiifano well off his shoulder to stretch the hosts but again a basic mistake undid their good work.
Giteau snatched the lead with his fourth kick, which came again from an aggressive kick return and some strong link play between Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander and Elsom. Lealiifano conceded the lead to Pietersen by failing to roll away, having pulled off an excellent tackle on a flying Habana.
The Stormers attacked the Brumbies with a renewed vigour following their levelling score, with Louw continuing his strong game by sniping at the fringes. Liebenberg barrelled through the defence but lost out to Brumbies replacement Huia Edmonds, who ended 8 phases of pressure by hacking downfield.
The game's pivotal moment came when Smith anticipated Harris' terrible pass on the home 22, snaffling possession and just beating Aplon to the try-line. Giteau made no mistake with the conversion.
With time ticking away the Stormers kicked a penalty to the corner, and again using their powerful maul were able to set up position. Louw's blindside dart caught the Brumbies napping and the TMO this time found in favour of the home side. As the Newlands faithful held their breath, though, Pietersen could only produce a dreadful hook to spark the visitors' celebrations.