Brumbies break Lions hearts


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The Brumbies needed a last-minute try to stay alive in the race for the Super 14 rugby playoffs with a scrappy 28-21 win over the gutsy Lions on Friday.

The Brumbies had to pull out all stops to get home against the last-placed South Africans, who had to battle on with 14 men at a crucial time in the second half and defended grimly for long periods to keep the home side out.

But just when the Lions looked set for a fighting draw, the Brumbies took a quick tap off a short-arm penalty and fly-half Christain Lealiifano broke a tackle to score the winning try under the crossbar.

It was rough justice for the Lions, who have been competitive in the first half of their matches against top-four teams the Crusaders and Waratahs on their Australasian tour only to fall away in the second half.

But this time they defended as if they lives depended on it and weathered multi-phases of Brumbies’ attacks until breached in the final seconds.

Brumbies’ Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock twice called his players in for a tongue-lashing over their sloppy ball control and afterwards described the match as “the ugliest win I’ve been a part of for a while.”

“We made it tough for ourselves and it was disgraceful the amount of ball we dropped,” Mortlock fumed.

The unedifying victory pushed the Brumbies into the top four and ahead of semi-final rivals the Blues, who lost 26-22 earlier to the Crusaders, but the Stormers, Chiefs and Hurricanes get their chance to leapfrog the Brumbies later this weekend.

The Lions looked headed for another familiar second-half fade-out after trailing 13-7 at halftime, with Mortlock scoring all the Brumbies’ points with a try, a conversion and two penalties.

But the Johannesburg outfit belied their modest position on the ladder with a stout-hearted effort.

Fullback Earl Rose rocked the home team with a try double in the space of four minutes, backing up a Venter break in the 52nd minute and then following up his high kick and supporting winger Louis Ludik to score again minutes later.

The Lions hit the front 21-13 to silence the Canberra crowd, but lost prop J.C. Janse van Rensburg to the sin bin in the 61st minute for repeated infringements.

While he was off the field Mark Gerrard scored in the corner to have the Brumbies trailing 21-18.

Gerrard potted a penalty goal to level with 11 minutes left as Mortlock ripped into his players over their slovenly performance before Lealiifano’s last-gasp try to break the Lions’ players’ hearts.

The Brumbies are off to South Africa for matches against the Stormers and Bulls, before finishing their regular season with a match against the Western Force in Perth on the way home.

The Lions, who came away with just one bonus point for their heart-breaking loss, stay on tour for a match next week against the Hurricanes.

Sapa-AFP –   

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