Brumbies still alive in Super 14 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Brumbies still alive in Super 14

By Darren Walton 28/04/2007 11:48:10 PM Comments (0)

Master five-eighth Stephen Larkham has crowned a fairytale farewell from Canberra Stadium with the game-breaking drop goal as the Brumbies kept their Super 14 semi-final hopes alive with a memorable 15-6 victory over the Crusaders.

Larkham rekindled memories of his match-winning field goal in the Wallabies' dramatic semi-final triumph over South Africa at the 1999 World Cup when he landed the killer blow against the mighty Crusaders with just three minutes left on the clock.

"I suppose tonight it was needed. I think the game could have gone either way at that stage of the match," Larkham said of his late heroics.

It was fitting end to a marquee night in the nation's capital, where Larkham and fellow Brumbies greats George Gregan and Jeremy Paul were playing for the last time after racking up a combined 361 matches for the franchise.

To fireworks and thunderous applause from the capacity crowd, the ACT government unveiled The Gregan-Larkham Stand just before kick-off and Paul joined the party with a man-of-the-match display in the vital win.

"It's the best place in the world to play rugby. I honestly believe that," Larkham told his adoring fans at a special post-match ceremony.

"We always have the best time - on and off the field."

Gregan described the Brumbies as like one big family before spending almost two hours with Larkham and Paul signing autographs.

"It was the last time. It was the least I could do," Gregan said.

"I've been with the Brumbies for 12 years. This place has been very special to me."

The trio deserved every bit of the attention as they led the Brumbies to one of their finest-ever wins over the defending champions.

Neither team was able to score a try but three penalty goals to skipper Stirling Mortlock, one to fullback Julian Huxley and Larkham's key contribution were enough to give the home team their fifth straight victory.

The match was played with finals intensity and befitting of two teams who have won a combined eight Super rugby titles over the last 11 years.

The Crusaders opened the scoring with a penalty goal to five-eighth Dan Carter in the sixth minute before Mortlock - returning after five weeks out with a broken hand - replied three minutes later.

Play ebbed and flowed from end to end, both sides testing each other's defence, and the Brumbies had the defending champions stretched on the half hour, prompting desperate Crusaders captain Richie McCaw to commit a professional foul and earn a 10-minute stint in the sin.

McCaw was pinged for deliberately knocking down a pass from Brumbies No.8 Stephen Hoiles and Mortlock punished his counterpart with his second penalty of the night.

Fullback Julian Huxley added a third penalty goal for the Brumbies after the halftime siren to send the home team to the break full of confidence.

Carter nudged the Crusaders to within three points of the Brumbies with his second penalty goal on the hour but Mortlock restored his team's six-point advantage with another of his own in the 68th minute.

The Crusaders threw everything at the Brumbies in the closing stages but the best defensive side in the tournament refused to yield and Larkham appropriately after such a stellar career in Canberra had the final say.

The Brumbies will travel to Dunedin next Saturday night hoping a first-ever away victory over the Highlanders will be enough to extend their 2007 campaign beyond the round-robin stage.

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