Christian Lealiifano kicks late penalty to beat Bulls

Reuters and AFP, WELLINGTON

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 20

Christian Lealiifano kicked a penalty after the fulltime hooter to give the ACT Brumbies a 23-20 victory over the Bulls in their Super Rugby clash in Canberra yesterday. The win moved them back to the top of the point standings.

Bulls center J.J. Engelbrecht had scored a 78th-minute try, which was converted by Morne Steyn to give the South Africans hope of a draw before Lealiifano slotted the long-range penalty after the Bulls had been penalized from the kickoff.

The Brumbies had earlier taken advantage of Morne Mellet being yellow-carded by referee Jonathon White for constantly collapsing the scrum, to stymie the visitors’ second half momentum and slot two penalties.

Much of the first half was played between the 22m areas as both sides seemed content to kick for territory and attempt to work off errors inside the opposition half.

The Brumbies forwards surprisingly outmuscled the bigger Bulls pack, allowing their team to make better use of the field position.

Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White missed two long-range penalties, while inside center Lealiifano slotted three closer to the posts to give the home side a 9-3 lead. Bulls flyhalf Steyn had scored a 20th-minute penalty as halftime approached.

The Brumbies forwards then began a rolling maul and a series of pick-and-gos to give their side some momentum, before fullback Robbie Coleman ran a superb angle from behind the point of attack and scored the only try of the first half, two minutes after the halftime hooter had sounded.

The match opened up more in the second half with Bulls winger Lionel Mapoe losing the ball over the line in the tackle, before Jurgen Visser finished off a well-worked backline move to score his first Super Rugby try in the 48th minute.

Steyn added the conversion, then slotted his second penalty of the match four minutes later that brought the visitors to 14-13.

Bulls loosehead prop Mellett, however, was sinbinned with 17 minutes remaining, which allowed the Brumbies to add two further Lealiifano penalties.

Engelbrecht then finished a counter-attacking movement that had swept from halfway after the Bulls had turned the ball over and Steyn converted from wide out.

Meanwhile, Richard Kahui celebrated his first Super Rugby start in 10 months with a try, storming defense and attacking thrust to help the Waikato Chiefs to a 23-16 victory over the Auckland Blues in Tauranga, New Zealand, yesterday.

Kahui, who had his fourth shoulder reconstruction last year and then needed keyhole surgery to clean up scar tissue before the season started, was key in shutting down an attack-minded Auckland backline.

The 27-year-old made his comeback off the bench last week, but was given his first start against the Blues and did not seem to be concerned about his shoulders, smashing into tackles and running straight and hard the entire game.

His industry was rewarded with a charge-down try in the second half that put the game out of reach for the Blues in an intense encounter.

Elsewhere, the Wellington Hurricanes scored six tries as they notched up their third consecutive win with a 46-30 victory over the Southern Kings yesterday.

The Hurricanes led 29-16 at halftime and after going off the boil immediately following the resumption they rallied in the final quarter to run in a further 17 points to secure the victory.