Unlucky kick dashes Cheetah hopes in dying moments

Riaan Smit of the Cheetahs
Riaan Smit of the Cheetahs

Cheetahs five-eighth Riaan Smit hit the post with a conversion attempt after the siren to give the Brumbies a 15-13 win in their Super Rugby qualifying final in Canberra.

While the Cheetahs scored the only two tries of the match, the Brumbies dominated the kicking duel and were amply rewarded with prime territory throughout the game.

The Brumbies had the lion’s share of the possession in the first half, yet the Cheetahs’ trademark scrambling defence proved up to the task.

A hotly contested breakdown battle also stilted momentum for both teams, referee Glenn Jackson warning both captains to clean up their sides’ acts midway through the second half.

The Cheetahs were seven points down when replacement Ryno Benjamin crossed in the left corner in the final minute to give Smit a chance to send the game into extra time.

But the kick hit the left post and the Brumbies escaped with the narrow victory to book a semi-final against the Bulls in Pretoria early next Sunday morning (AEST).

While the home side arguably had the rub of the green on scrum penalty decisions from Jackson in the first half, Brumbies loose-head prop Scott Sio was clearly dominant in the second half.

Man-of-the-match George Smith was also outstanding for the Brumbies, his presence at the breakdown a constant thorn in the side of the Cheetahs.

The Brumbies were rewarded for a blitzing start with an early penalty goal, but the Cheetahs hit back in the 16th minute when their first attacking set-piece yielded a try to outside centre Johann Sadie.

Sharp-shooting goal-kicker Christian Lealiifano then uncharacteristically missed two penalty shots before finding his range again to give the Brumbies a 6-5 lead at the break.

The Cheetahs drew first blood after the break with a penalty goal to Smit, but the Brumbies hit back with three of their own to gain the seven-point lead which would eventually help them hold on for victory. – AP