No. 8 Cornell du Preez scored his second try three minutes after the fulltime siren to provide the Southern Kings with a battling 28-28 draw with Super Rugby leaders the ACT Brumbies in Canberra yesterday.
“Our mindset wasn’t right from the start and while we got some points on, we turned off and let them back in,” Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. “Inconsistency has cost us, but certainly ... you have got to give credit to them.”
The Brumbies had started the game like it was a contested training session, taking control of the ball, recycling and building phases to march down field and set up a Christian Lealiifano penalty and tries to Henry Speight and Joe Tomane.
While Lealiifano missed both conversions, the ruthless efficiency the home team displayed to quickly establish a 13-0 lead suggested it would be an easy stroll to a bonus-point victory.
The Kings, however, whose line speed in defense and ability to hold the ball through phases has made them combative, went to their strength and got back into the game.
Loosehead prop Schalk Ferreira finished off an impressive move that involved constructive running interplay from the forwards.
While Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White kicked a long-range penalty to give the home side a nine-point lead, the Kings simply regrouped and responded with flanker Wimpie van der Walt crashing over from a rolling maul following an attacking lineout.
Lealiifano added a late penalty to give his side some breathing space at 19-14 heading into halftime, but the Kings struck back shortly after the re-start when they swept down field and Du Preez sauntered over.
Lealiifano edged the home side 22-21 ahead again with his third penalty and when Ferreira was yellow-carded for persistent infringement with 13 minutes remaining and the Brumbies flyhalf slotted two more penalties, the game looked over.
The Kings, however, achieved a succession of penalties after the fulltime hooter, hammered away at the Brumbies line and were rewarded when Du Preez barged over and replacement Demetri Catrakilis added the game-tying conversion.
BLUES V HIGHLANDERS
Piri Weepu scored two second-half tries to lead the Auckland Blues to a 29-18 win over the Otago Highlanders at Eden Park yesterday, the hosts’ reviving their Super Rugby campaign after three losses.
The Highlanders slipped to a sixth defeat in as many matches, virtually extinguishing any hope the side had of reaching the playoffs.
The Blues were also desperate, their season having reached a tipping point after they had followed up a pair of wins with three defeats.
Poor discipline cost the visitors after they had opened a 10-0 lead, courtesy of a Colin Slade penalty and a converted Ben Smith try.
Highlanders inside center Ma’a Nonu was then sinbinned for an illegal shoulder charge on Weepu.
The Blues capitalized on their man-advantage with tries to loose forward Steven Luatua and tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao, while Chris Noakes added a conversion to give them 12 unanswered points while Nonu was off the field.
Slade responded for Otago just before the break when he landed his second penalty to put the Highlanders 13-12 ahead at halftime.
Blues winger George Moala was sinbinned four minutes into the second half for a high tackle on Buxton Popoalii.
The Highlanders pack then demolished the Blues at the scrum for a sustained period and numerous penalties, but the home side were able to hold them out and then seized the lead when Weepu took the final pass to saunter over after a patient build-up.
Noakes’ conversion gave the Blues a 19-13 lead, though the Highlanders struck back almost immediately when Phil Burleigh finished off a break from Fumiaki Tanaka in the corner. Slade’s conversion was unsuccessful.
Noakes slotted a penalty to extend the advantage to four points, before Weepu gave the home side a comfortable 11-point lead with a little more than 10 minutes remaining.