Brumbies bag late win over Highlanders - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Brumbies bag late win over Highlanders

13/02/2009 10:55:14 PM Comments (0)

Young five-eighth Christian Lealiifano kicked the first drop goal of his senior rugby career to give new Brumbies coach Andy Friend a heart-stopping 33-31 win over the Highlanders in the opening Super 14 match of the season.

The Highlanders scored five tries to four in Dunedin in a match of extraordinary fluctuations that thrilled to the very last moment.

The Brumbies trailed 19-0 after conceeding three tries in the first 20 minutes.

The visitors then piled on 30 unanswered points to seemingly wrap up victory, but the unheralded Highlanders - who lost All Blacks Jimmy Cowan and Jamie Mackintosh to injury in the first half - hit back.

Late tries to replacement forwards Chris King and Jason Rutledge gave the Highlanders a 31-30 edge.

Just when the Brumbies looked gone, however, Lealiifano stepped up to win the match with a 30m right foot drop goal.

"That's the first field goal I've made in my whole life, I've attempted a few in club football, but that's the first one," Lealiifano said.

"We've trained for these kind of situations. I was thinking just kick it as hard as I could and I think I could have hit it a bit better."

Friend and captain and No.8 Stephen Foiles lauded their team for showing the character and composure to recover from a disastrous start.

"I thought to show the belief to come back from 19-0 down showed a lot of character," said Friend, who was happy with his team's set piece work.

He described former Brumbies skipper and current Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock as "a very special player" after the hard running centre triggered his team's comeback by scoring two tries and setting up another for fullback Mark Gerrard.

Mortlock, who downplayed his contribution and described his performance as "a little bit dodgy", said the Brumbies still have a lot to improve on.

"It's a pretty unique way to start off this year's Super 14, it was quite an unbelievable match," Mortlock said.

Early tries to centre Jason Shoemark, winger Fetu'u Vainkolo and five-eighth Daniel Bowden gave the home team a seemingly unassailable advantage.

But, inspired by Mortlock, the Brumbies finally their turned big territorial advantage into points.

A Mortlock try from an angled run after 25 minutes and a conversion and penalty to fullback Mark Gerrard cut the deficit to 19-10 at halftime.

Mortlock then spun away from two defenders and crashed through another two to score the second Brumbies try two minutes after the re-start.

A further Gerrard penalty got the visitors to within one point and they hit the front in the 48th minute when Mortlock's centre partner Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed following good work by Lealiifano.

Mortlock's perfectly judged pass to Gerrard gave the Brumbies a try-scoring bonus point and an 11-point lead before the nail-biting finish.

The Brumbies' only casualty was winger Clyde Rathbone, who required some stitches after suffering a first half cut under an eye.

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