Chiefs to face Brumbies in Super Rugby final

CHRIS DUTTON
Last updated 08:32 28/07/2013
JJ Englebrecht and Henry Speight
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IN YOUR FACE: Bulls wing JJ Englebrecht fends his Brumbies opposite Henry Speight in the face during their Super Rugby semifinal in Pretoria. The Brumbies won 26-23 to book a spot in the final against the Chiefs.

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The Brumbies are going to the Super Rugby grand final for the first time in nine years after they launched a miraculous escape effort in Pretoria on Sunday morning.

Trailing the Pretoria-based Bulls by four points with just 90 seconds remaining, fly-half Matt Toomua slipped through a gap and set up Tevita Kuridrani for the match-winning try.

The Brumbies won 26-23 in front of a hostile crowd at Loftus Versfeld.

All the odds were stacked against the young Brumbies, especially when the Bulls surged back into the match in the second half to claim the lead after 60 minutes.

But in an amazing show of resilience and determination, the Brumbies continued to fight despite being starved of possession and clinched a thrilling win.

The Brumbies will play the Chiefs in the final in Hamilton next Saturday night.

The win over the Bulls will go down as one of the gutsiest in the club's history. They became the first team to beat the Bulls at Loftus in a finals match and played on despite being strangled out of the contest.

Coach Jake White hugged his players on the field after the final whistle.

But the attention now turns to the Chiefs and the Brumbies will fly back to Canberra on Sunday night and arrive on Monday afternoon.

They will train in the capital until Wednesday and fly to New Zealand on Thursday.

The Brumbies haven't played in the Super Rugby finals since they won the title in 2004.

Now they're on the cusp of doing what no team has done in the competition's history and travel almost 30,000 kilometres in three weeks to chase their championship dream.

Toomua and Kuridrani sealed the result just 48 hours after they were named in Ewen McKenzie's Wallabies squad.

Toomua was superb in spotting the gap and taking the ball to the line and Kuridrani - the Fijian flyer - latched on to the pass and went over untouched.

The crowd went silent as the Bulls title hopes disappeared amidst the Brumbies celebrations.

Earlier, the Brumbies got the perfect start when fullback Jesse Mogg created space out wide before passing to flying winger Henry Speight who forced his way through three defenders with ease. When he got to the fourth Bulls player, he flicked a pass to Mogg who was backing up on the outside and scored in the corner.

It was a dream start after Christian Lealiifano opened the scoring with a penalty goal.

But the Bulls hit straight back when they finally got some possession and they exploited the Brumbies' defensive weakness out wide.

Outside centre JJ Englebrecht held off Speight and scored in the corner to cut the margin to five points.

The Brumbies struggled to get out of their half after scoring points and the first half ended with Lealiifano and Morne Steyn trading penalty goals to have the score at 16-11 in the visitors' favour.

Lealiifano and Steyn are the only two players in the competition who have scored 200 points or more.

The Bulls burst out of the blocks in the second half and lock Grant Hattingh forced his way over the line. But some superb defensive work from man of the match George Smith held him up over the line and the Bulls had to settle for a penalty.

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The Bulls hit the lead when they put the Brumbies under massive pressure inside their own half.

George Smith made an uncharacteristic error from a quick tap, a lineout throw went amiss and Steyn slotted another penalty to give the Bulls the lead after 59 minutes.

Steyn had another chance to extend the lead in the 69th minute when Joe Tomane was caught at the breakdown just 22 metres from his line.

It would have been an easy shot for a goal kicker of Steyn's calibre, but with his team in front by one point he opted to go for an attacking lineout in attempt to deliver a killer blow.

It didn't work when he was pinged for a forward pass and the Brumbies held on to stay in the game with 12 minutes remaining.

Steyn took the same option just minutes later, but then bizarrely went for a drop goal from 35 metres out and missed.

For a third time the Bulls turned down a shot and went for the attacking lineout just five metres from the Brumbies line.

Finally, when the Bulls got a fourth penalty in their attacking zone they let Steyn step up and extend the Bulls' lead to four points with just five minutes remaining.

But the restart gave Brumbies field position and they were determined not to stay down. With just 90 seconds remaining, Toomua spotted the opening and Kuridrani finished the job.

ACT BRUMBIES 26 (Jesse Mogg, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Christian Lealiifano 4 penalties,2 conversions) bt PRETORIA BULLS 23 (JJ Englebrecht try; Morne Steyn 6 penalties) at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday morning. Referee: Craig Joubert. Crowd: 37,000

- Canberra Times

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