Rugby: Brumbies scrape into semi-final

By Wynne Gray

Henry Speight of the Brumbies is tackled during the Super Rugby Qualifying Final match between the Brumbies and the Cheetahs. Photo / Getty Images.
Henry Speight of the Brumbies is tackled during the Super Rugby Qualifying Final match between the Brumbies and the Cheetahs. Photo / Getty Images.

Brumbies 15
Cheetahs 13

The Brumbies and Cheetahs head out of Canberra to South Africa today with the hosts the only side who will unfurl their playing gear again.

It was a case of five penalties holding out two tries from the Cheetahs, including a final minute touchdown before Riaan Smit's touchline conversion attempt hit the post and bounced away.

The dramatic conclusion ended an awkward spectacle, 15-13 in the Brumbies favour. The Cheetahs have been the most adventurous of the South African sides and they showed that in patches today.

The Brumbies have been the most disciplined of the Australian teams and they maintained that steadfast approach to earn a semifinal with the Bulls in Pretoria this weekend.

After the exhilaration of the Crusaders performance to start the playoffs the second quarterfinal was a tough watch. Everyone was spoiled by the quality of the rugby in Christchurch but the next contest was awkward.

For more than an hour the Brumbies ticked the scoreboard over in increments of three as they kept enough composure to stay in front of a Cheetahs side who brought plenty of spirit and defensive pressure.

It was nail-biting stuff for the coaching staff as the Brumbies were unable to shake the visitors who threatened to pinch the match with an intercept or some other audacious play in the late stages.

Christian Lealiifano steered another penalty through the target with 12minutes remaining but the Brumbies were still not safe. They saved one anxious episode when Benjamin grubbered but the ball went dead.

From a penalty 5m out they tapped and drove at the line but referee Glen Jackson called a scrum. Another penalty came to the Cheetahs. The big men smashed forward but Lodewyk de Jager lost the ball across the touchline.

It was tense and brutal, just the stuff that elimination matches should be even if the quality was average.

Substitute halfback Sarel Pretorius found Benjamin with a great pass on the sideline and the wing scampered over as the ground clock showed fulltime. Smit had the chance to send the match into extra time but his superb attempt veered late and cannoned away off the post.

The game barely got started in the first half with both sides looking as though they were in a sparring contest.

They both had moments when they found some fluid moves but they were about as rare as a warm winter's day in Canberra in July.

The best came from the Cheetahs with a set play from an attacking lineout. The ball went wide and with several dummy runners they managed to find some space for centre Johann Sadie, who had faded out to the wing and scored without a defender in range.

Smit missed the conversion attempt after a penalty miss while Christian Lealiifiano managed two successes from four attempts he had. The Brumbies played into a flukey wind and that seemed to upset Lealiifano's tempo from the tee.

The Brumbies had won six of their eight games at home this season with a draw and their solitary defeat against the Crusaders. They were coming off a poor last round loss to the Force in Perth

That did not faze coach Jake White who spoke in the run up to this match about his side playing towards the tournament conclusion. He was confident they would win in Canberra and again this week.

Brumbies (Christian Lealiifano 4 pen, Nic White pen
Cheetahs ( Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin tries; Riaan Smit pen) Halftime: 6-5

- NZ Herald

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