Lealiifano gives Brumbies last-minute win
Christian Lealiifano kicked an injury-time penalty to give the Brumbies a controversial 24-23 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in their Vodacom Super Rugby game in Canberra on Saturday.
The Cheetahs were penalised several times in the last 15 minutes by referee Keith Brown, who took aim at their scrum and allowed the Brumbies to claw themselves back from a 23-10 deficit to get the crucial penalty after the hooter.
It was a critical juncture, as the Brumbies looked to hit early on the engage on every scrum, with Brown allowing it in full view, and then when the Cheetahs tried to meet it they were heavily penalised.
The spate of penalties infuriated the Cheetahs players, who were left to shake their heads at the treatment they received, and allowed the Brumbies to steal a win they hardly deserved in the game.
To give you an example, the Cheetahs conceded just one penalty in the first half, but 10 in the second half, five of those at scrumtime and all in the last five minutes. In the last 25 minutes, as opposed to the one penalty against the home side, the Cheetahs conceded eight.
While the Brumbies have to be given credit for the comeback, some telling questions need to be asked about the handling of the scrum, which Brown has a lot to answer for.
The Cheetahs, however, will be kicking themselves for allowing a game to slip from their grasp that they should have won.
Several times in the first half they fluffed good chances, with the last pass not going to hand and it seemed they had rectified this with an early surge in the second half to move from their 13-10 halftime score to be 23-10 up.
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But a well-worked try from Pat McCabe brought the Brumbies back within striking distance, and when the crunch came, the Cheetahs' indiscretions at scrumtime were their downfall.
Once again there will be questions rightfully asked about their composure, while the Cheetahs' lack of physicality was also a troublesome blight on their play.
After a poor start where a try from Henry Speight put the Brumbies up early, the visitors replied with a Johan Goosen penalty and a stunning try from winger Willie le Roux.
An overthrow of the lineout was plucked by Coenie Oosthuizen, who popped an inside pass to a flying Le Roux, allowing the winger to step inside the last line of defence for a great try.
With such speed, its easy to forget that Le Roux is actually a flyhalf, but as a retreaded winger he was excellent, finding space and giving the Brumbies defence countless problems on the outside.
While the kickers conjured the 13-10 scoreline at the break, it was Le Roux again who sparked the second try, after a great turnover by 50th-game man Hennie Daniller.
The winger took the blindside gap, found good space between the Brumbie defenders, and then passed inside to Tewis de Bruyn for the try.
The Brumbies were not to be outdone, and some great phase play eventually opened a massive gap on the righthand side, easy enough for the ball to go through the hands and see McCabe over the tryline.
The Cheetahs did some stupid things in the last 20 minutes, in all likelihood through their desperation to win the match. But for the scrum they cannot be blamed, leaving them attached to their horrid record of just one win in 13 outings in the Antipodes.
Brumbies – Tries: Henry Speight, Pat McCabe. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (4).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Willie le Roux, Tewis de Bruyn. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalties: Goosen (3).