Brumbies keep play-off hopes alive

The ACT Brumbies kept their Super 14 semifinal hopes alive with a tense 16-11 away win over an ill-disciplined Auckland Blues at Eden Park on Saturday.

Needing a win to stay in touch with the teams above them, the Brumbies withstood some early Auckland pressure before slowly asserting their dominance.

The win moves the Brumbies up one place to seventh, while third-placed Auckland could find themselves out of the top four when the weekend’s round is completed.

”Eden Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us,” ACT Brumbies skipper George Smith told reporters. ”It [winning here] was one of the goals we set ourselves at the start of the year.”

Auckland opened the match at a furious pace and had the visitors under an enormous amount of pressure, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Brumbies were the first to score.

Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock kicked a penalty in the 10th minute, which signalled the start of the ACT dominance. They slowly gained control and looked certain to score on a number of occasions, with only some desperate Auckland defence and some poor decision-making denying them.

The Blues finally cracked after 30 minutes when the Auckland defence hung off impressive young flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and allowed him to score out wide, Mortlock converting to make it 10-0.

Auckland struck back with three minutes left in the first half with a Nick Evans penalty, to send the teams to the break with the Brumbies leading 10-3.

Mortlock restored the 10-point advantage eight minutes after the restart when Auckland defenders were caught offside deep in their own 22, but Evans got the Blues back to within striking distance at 13-6 with another penalty 10 minutes later.

The Brumbies looked to have put the game beyond reach when Mark Gerrard kicked a simple penalty after one of the Auckland players was penalised for dissent.

However, winger Rudi Wulf gave the home side some hope when he scored out wide with five minutes to go, but it was too little, too late.

Smith said the Brumbies were never able to relax. ”It was sort of a see-sawing game — we were on top for some parts of the game then the Blues got ahead,” he said. ”But in the second half we recycled the ball really well and thankfully came away with the win.” — Reuters

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