Highlanders deny Brumbies' semi spot - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Highlanders deny Brumbies' semi spot

By David Beniuk 06/05/2006 10:08:24 PM Comments (0)

Late penalties prevented the Brumbies securing a Super 14 semi-final berth before they meet frontrunners the Crusaders in next weekend's last round in Christchurch, the Canberra-based side going down 28-26 to the Highlanders in Canberra.

A 78th minute penalty goal by Highlanders fullback Ben Blair secured the win before the Brumbies were penalised in the final minutes within sight of the Dunedin-based side's try line.

A second half arm wrestle resulted in only one try, a rare second for prop Carl Hayman after an entertaining first half had the Highlanders up 15-14.

Playing his last match for the Brumbies in Canberra, inside centre Matt Giteau won the man-of-the-match consolation prize after a sparkling display.

Giteau found himself at halfback for part of the second half when George Gregan was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Highlanders winger Richard Kahui.

The Brumbies led 26-25 with 10 minutes left after a Gregan field goal and three Mortlock penalties, but Blair had also booted a penalty and converted Hayman's 60th minute barge over effort.

Brumbies errors in their own 22 compounded their problems with fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper and winger Clyde Rathbone each coming up with second half blunders that gave the Highlanders territory.

Giteau had offered farewell gifts to his Canberra fans at both ends of the stadium in the first half.

A 30th minute try and 37th minute try-saving dive on the ball more than made up for the Western Force signing's first touch, a cold dropped ball in the opening minutes.

After coming close with a blistering run in the 7th minute, Giteau was assisted over the line by the Brumbies forwards for his five-pointer, which locked the scores up at 12-12.

With the Waratahs loss meaning a home semi-final was still a possibility for the Canberra-based side, the Brumbies had everything to play for and mounted the early pressure, taking an early 7-0 lead.

The Highlanders hit back, Hayman crashing over from close to the line in the 21st minute with Blair converting for 7-7.

The Highlanders' growing superiority at the set-piece resulted in a try from a line-out, the Brumbies unable to control a steal and No.8 Craig Newby storming over in the corner for 12-7.

Giteau's try levelled things up with Mortlock's conversion making it 14-12, but the visitors ultimately snuck home in a big blow to the Canberra side.

The Brumbies need to beat the Crusaders next weekend to ensure a finals spot with South Africa's Bulls still a chance of finishing fourth.

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