Penalty after siren earns Brumbies victory
An after-the-siren 45-metre penalty goal to inside centre Christian Lealiifano snatched the Brumbies a dramatic 23-20 Super Rugby win over the Bulls in Canberra on Saturday night.
The Bulls locked the scores up with one minute to go when outside centre Johannes Engelbrecht scored in the corner from a turnover and Morne Steyn converted.
But the South Africans pushed for the win after the hooter and were penalised directly in front of their own posts.
Lealiifano, who had only missed one shot at goal in six attempts all night, stepped up and nailed it in front of 13,735 fans.
The Bulls finished strong for the second week running, working back an 11-point halftime deficit, but once again fell just short of snatching a last minute result.
The Brumbies scrum dominated the Bulls throughout the match, culminating in a yellow card to loosehead prop Morne Mellet in the 65th minute for repeated scrum infringements.
With the Bulls scrum one man down, the Brumbies pressed home their advantage and nine minutes later Lealiifano kicked his fifth penalty goal of the night after another scrum infringement.
Both sides began the match playing a very conservative style of rugby, choosing to minimise the risk of being penalised in their own half by kicking it immediately rather than running.
A 9-3 lead to the Brumbies late in the first half gave them the confidence to run the ball more, retaining possession for over a dozen phases before fullback Robbie Coleman scrambled over the tryline after the halftime siren.
A rejuvenated Bulls declined a penalty shot directly after halftime and after several phases winger Lionel Mapoe crashed over the line only to lose the ball in a last ditch tackle by Brumbies winger Henry Speight.
However fellow winger Petrus Visser made amends in the 49th minute when he finished off a well worked passage of play from the Bulls.
Lealiifano said some teammates tried not to look him in the eye before the match-winning kick.
"It was a bit patchy where it was, and I tried to move it forward and do all those kinds of things to sneak it in," he said.
"But it was one of those things where I've kicked it during the week and just hoped I'd hit it right on the night and luckily enough it went over."
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke questioned the last play turnover from Brumbies replacement Colby Faingaa, saying he believed the Brumbies defensive line were offside at the time.
"Clearly offside, definitely, we just looked at it," he said.
"I've just seen those guys going before the ball is out, to charge Morne (Steyn) down, they knew Morne was going to kick.
"But you know that's the game, it would have given us another point, but that's life.
"We don't want to give it energy, the whole season is ahead of us, it was a great effort and we're going to go with that."
White said it was just one call that could have gone either way in a tough encounter.
"The margins are so small in this competition that those sort of calls, if they go for you that's fantastic," White said.
ACT Brumbies 23 (Robbie Coleman try Christian Lealiifano 6 pens) Bulls 20 (JJ Engelbrecht, Jurgen Visser tries Morne Steyn 2 cons 2 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Jonathan White. Crowd: 13,735