Brumbies claw back Cheetahs
Canberra - Christian Lealiifano kicked a penalty on the full-time siren to clinch a 24-23 Super 15 win for the ACT Brumbies over South Africa's Central Cheetahs in Canberra on Saturday.
The Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs looked to be heading for their first win in four visits to the Australian capital with a 23-10 lead early in the second half.
But the Free Staters were reeled in by the Brumbies, who trailed 23-21 going into the final minute before the Cheetahs conceded a scrum penalty that inside-centre Lealiifano converted to keep the home team unbeaten this season.
The victory came on top of Friday's news that the Brumbies' South African World Cup-winning coach Jake White had ruled himself out of contention for the vacant England job to stick with the twice-champion Super 15 side.
The win was an example of "what we've been trying to achieve all pre-season and staying with it," Brumbies' skipper Ben Mowen said.
"We're not kidding ourselves, there's a lot of stuff that needs to be tidied up. We didn't play well around our 50, some options you would like to change, but as long as you are winning and you can change them, then it's a better place to be in."
The Cheetahs, who upset the NSW Waratahs in Sydney last year for their first victory in Australia in 12 attempts, could only blame their ill-discipline in the final 20 minutes for allowing the Brumbies to get up at the death.
Captain Adriaan Strauss lamented their throwing away a winning position.
"We are not going to get more opportunities to win a game than we had today, so obviously disappointing," the hooker said.
"I felt there at the end the decisions were going against us. We need to have a look at that and try to fix that.
"We definitely gave away penalties at the scrum, but I think one or two could have gone our way and that could have definitely changed the game."
Cheetahs' left-winger Willie Le Roux looked dangerous with the ball, scoring in the 19th minute and laying on the final pass for scrum-half Tewis de Bruyn to score two minutes after halftime.
For the Brumbies, Wallaby Pat McCabe scored on his return from shoulder surgery, while Fijian winger Henry Speight plunged over in the ninth minute.
Cheetahs fly-half Johan Goosen kicked three penalties and two conversions from six shots, while Lealiifano landed four penalties and one conversion from his six attempts.
The Cheetahs continue their Australian tour against the Rebels in Melbourne next weekend, while the Brumbies travel to New Zealand to take on the Waikato Chiefs.
Tries: Henry Speight, Pat McCabe; Conversions: Christian Lealiifano; Penalties: Lealiifano (4)
Tries: Willie le Roux, Tewis de Bruyn; Conversions: Johan Goosen (2); Penalties: Goosen (3)