Brumbies win sets up Chiefs-Crusaders semi

DAVID BARBELER
Last updated 22:10 21/07/2013
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CLOSE ENCOUNTER: The Brumbies have prevailed 15-13 over the Cheetahs and will meet the Bulls in one semi-final while the Chiefs will have to get past the Crusaders.

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The Brumbies have snuck through to the Super Rugby semi-finals with a lucky 15-13 win over the Cheetahs in Canberra after the visitors hit the post with a conversion attempt after the siren.

Brumbies coach Jake White was one relieved man after the qualifying final, admitting he was surprised his side almost squandered their seven-point lead in the dying stages.

"With four minutes left to go we got the scrum and I didn't see (the Cheetahs) scoring," White said.

"I thought: 'That's it, we'll just defend and make sure we don't put numbers into the breakdown.

"Then they go and score with a minute left.

"That's finals footy. We got lucky with that kick at the end."

While the Cheetahs scored the only two tries of the match, the Brumbies dominated the kicking duel and were amply rewarded with kickable penalty goals in prime Canberra Stadium real estate.

The Brumbies had their try-scoring chances, Ben Mowen throwing two forward passes under pressure as the Cheetahs' trademark scrambling defence proved up to the task.

A hotly contested breakdown battle also stilted momentum for both teams, referee Glenn Jackson warning both captains to clean up their sides' acts during the second half.

The Cheetahs were seven points down when replacement Ryno Benjamin crossed in the left corner in the final minute to give five-eighth Riaan Smit a chance to send the game into extra time.

But the kick hit the left post and the Brumbies escaped with the narrow victory to book a semi-final against the Bulls in Pretoria early next Sunday morning.

The result also means a New Zealand side is guaranteed a place in the final, with the Chiefs to host the Crusaders on Saturday night.

"It was a big relief," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said.

"I asked (assistant coach Stephen Larkham) before the kick what was the next part of the game and he said another 20 minutes extra time.

"I was thinking: 'another 20 minutes of this pace, it could bust right open'. Both sides were out on their feet.

"Fortunately for us it didn't happen."

While the home side arguably had the rub of the green on scrum penalty decisions in the first half, Brumbies loose-head prop Scott Sio was clearly dominant in the second half.

Man-of-the-match George Smith was also outstanding for the Brumbies, his influence at the breakdown only exceeded by Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss.

The Brumbies were rewarded for a blitzing start with an early penalty goal, but the Cheetahs hit back in the 16th minute when their first attacking set-piece yielded a try to centre Johann Sadie.

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Sharp-shooting goal-kicker Christian Lealiifano then uncharacteristically missed two penalty shots before finding his range again to give the Brumbies a 6-5 lead at halftime.

The Cheetahs drew first blood after the break with a penalty goal to Smit, but the Brumbies hit back with three of their own to gain the seven-point lead which would eventually help send them on their way to South Africa.

- AAP

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