Brumbies edge thriller
Mortlock's late conversion denies Crusaders
Last Updated: 21/02/09 12:15pm
Mortlock celebrates with his Brumbies team-mates
The Brumbies left it late to snatch an 18-16 victory from the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday.
Mark Gerrard brushed off two tackles to cross for a last-gasp try to level the scores after the Brumbies had been on the attack for 11 phases.
And Stirling Mortlock stepped up to land the match-winning conversion from close to the right touchline with the last act of the game.
The hosts ran the ball positively in numbers throughout the 80 minutes, but a depleted Crusaders outfit had every answer in defence for all but the last play.
The loss was tough on the defending Super 14 champions, who had not trailed in the match until Mortlock's conversion.
Crusaders fly-half Colin Slade opened the scoring with a sixth-minute penalty and the visitors were the better team in a disjointed first half, despite playing into a strong breeze.
Crusaders centre Casey Lualala gave his team an 8-3 advantage in the 17th minute, capitalising on a blind pass from George Smith, collecting the loose ball and out-sprinting two defenders to score out wide.
Smith made amends in the 33rd minute, breaking the line and passing to fly-half Christian Lealiifano who ran another 10 metres to score. Gerrard missed the conversion to leave scores level at 8-8.
With less than a minute to play in the half, Crusaders full-back Stephen Brett landed a good penalty against the wind to give his team an 11-8 advantage at the break.
Brumbies centre Mortlock slotted a 55th-minute penalty to level the scores, but the Crusaders scored a try just a minute later to regain the lead.
After gaining good field position, the Crusaders spun the ball wide for Ross Filippo to touch down in the corner and put the New Zealanders ahead before the late drama unfolded.