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25 May 2013 12:26
Christian Lealiifano is tackled by Lions during the Super 15 Rugby match between the Lions and Brumbies at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg last year. (AFP)
The ACT Brumbies built a wide lead with a forceful wind behind them in the first half of the game, then held with the gale in their faces to beat the Blues 20-13 in Super Rugby on Saturday.
The Brumbies' traditional kicking game was more suited than the Blues' ball-in-hand style to the wet and windy conditions at Eden Park, allowing them to post their eighth win from 13 matches this season and to retain first place in the Australian conference after 15 rounds.
Scrumhalf Nic White scored a superb first-half try and inside centre Christian Lealiifano enhanced his Wallabies credentials by kicking five penalties from seven attempts in a clinical Brumbies' performance.
The first half was decisive. After the Blues won the toss and chose to give away the wind which, with sheeting rain, made conditions treacherous, the Brumbies camped in the Blues' half throughout the first half and built a commanding lead.
Lealiifano made it more likely he will play at inside centre for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions next month when he kicked penalties in the second, 13th and 41st minutes.
White scored a try which cleverly exploited the conditions, pouncing on a box kick and skidding over the line in the 22nd minute to help the Brumbies build a commanding halftime lead.
The Blues fought back as was to be expected in the second half, closing the gap to 14-10 when centre Rene Ranger scored a brilliant try in the 53rd minute.
Too powerful to stop
After superb initial play by George Moala and Frank Halai, scrumhalf Piri Weepu made a telling break and passed to Ranger who was too powerful to stop in slippery conditions.
Lealiifano and Blues' replacement Baden Kerr exchanged penalties to make the score 17-13 after 65 minutes, then Lealiifano clinched the Brumbies' win with his last penalty eight minutes from full time.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said his team's first half performance was decisive.
"We definitely stuck to our game plan, which is good," he said.
"When we woke up this morning and saw the rain was coming down we felt pretty comfortable because that was how we'd planned all week.
Blues captain Ali Williams, who sobbed as he announced his retirement from international rugby this week, said his team's performance lacked heart.
"Conditions were difficult for both sides," he said.
"That's the disappointing part. You can live with mistakes because guys are trying but tonight we should give ourselves an uppercut for the first half." – Sapa-AP
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