Cheetahs denied by Lealiifano
McCabe marks return from shoulder surgery with try for Brumbies
Last Updated: 10/03/12 11:00am
Christian Lealiifano: kicked nine points in the closing stages
Christian Lealiifano held his nerve to kick a last-gasp penalty and clinch the ACT Brumbies a thrilling 24-23 win over the Cheetahs at Canberra Stadium.
Defeat was tough on the brave Cheetahs after they had been in front for much of the match, leading by as many as 13 at one stage of the second half.
Crucially, however, they lost their discipline in the closing minutes, giving Lealiifano the chance to step up and be the home side's hero.
He knocked over three points with less than five minutes left to narrow the gap to two and then, after a frantic conclusion which saw both teams struggle to hang on to the ball, slotted over the match-winning penalty after the final hooter.
The victory was a further boost for the Brumbies following on from the news that head coach Jake White had decided to rule himself out of contention for the vacant England job.
After falling behind to a third-minute penalty, the Australian franchise grabbed the opening try of the game when Henry Speight scored out wide.
The Brumbies were camped in their attacking half for most of the opening half but were unable to capitalise, before the Cheetahs scored in the 19th minute in their first foray forward for a good 15 minutes.
Cheetahs' prop Coenie Oosthuizen was the unlikely playmaker, running off the back of a lineout and putting Willie Le Roux through a hole.
Lealiifano landed a kick to make it 10-10 but the South Africans edged back ahead thanks to Goosen's penalty on the stroke of half time.
The Cheetahs then struck a minute into the second half, with Le Roux stepping inside and putting Tewis de Bruyn over out wide, with Goosen converting from the touchline.
Ben Hand gifted Goosen another simple penalty to extend the Cheetahs' lead to 13 and at that stage they seemed to be heading for their first win in four visits to the Australian capital.
The Brumbies, however, had other ideas. Pat McCabe marked his return from shoulder surgery with a try in the 52nd minute, though Lealiifano missed the conversion to keep the lead at eight.
They thought they'd scored again when flanker Scott Fardy dived over, only for the try to be ruled out for offside.
Instead it was left to Lealiifano to kick them to glory, the New Zealander slotting over nine points in the final 15 minutes to settle a see-saw contest.