GARETH DUNCAN watched Christian Lealiifano kick a last-second penalty to give the Brumbies a 24-23 win over the Cheetahs in Canberra.
With a 23-10 lead early in the second half over a bumbling Brumbies outfit, the Cheetahs looked set to record their third Super Rugby victory in Australasia. However, referee Keith Brown’s strict handling of the scrum and breakdown swung the momentum and saw the Cheetahs heavily penalised in the final quarter. After Pat McCabe’s try, Lealiifano slotted three penalties for the win – the last one coming in the final movement of the game.
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss said he felt hard done by as ‘the decisions went against them’ at the death. However, the Bloemfontein franchise had opportunities to take play out of their half following a Heinrich Brussow steal and a Philip Snyman intercept. A knock-on cancelled Brussow’s efforts, while Snyman looked for support instead of kicking his team out of danger. This saw the Brumbies take advantage of their favourable field position.
Head coach Naka Drotske will be disappointed considering his side had the upper hand against Jake White’s charges for most parts of the match.
The Cheetahs showed good attacking play in the first half, but their finishing let them down. After Henry Speight’s early try for the hosts, the visitors held most of the ascendancy in the first half, but they failed to capitalise from their regular visits to the Brumbies’ red zone. It took a smart run from speedster Willie le Roux for the Bloemfontein franchise to finally cross the chalk as he raced through following a set-piece move from a lineout in midfield.
It was a close contest on the scoreboard, with Johan Goosen and Christian Lealiifano trading penalties. A Goosen three-pointer on the stroke of half-time edged the Cheetahs 13-10 ahead at the break.
The Cheetahs built on their lead early after the restart, with a Tewis de Bruyn try and a Goosen penalty creating a 13-point buffer. However, the tourists imploded as their ill-discipline and poor decision making cost them a famous win. Their overseas curse continues.