A dramatic final minute try has kept the Brumbies Super 14 season alive in a thrilling 28-21 victory at Canberra Stadium over the Lions tonight.
In the final minute, half Christian Lealiifano crashed through under the posts to secure the victory for the hosts.
RugbyHeaven Aus reports that the Brumbies trailed early after gifting the visitors a try in the second minute following poor defence, but penalty goals to captain Stirling Mortlock kept them in the hunt until a 31st minute try by Mortlock gave the Brumbies the lead.
Mortlock, returning from injury, showed he was back to his best form with pure strength in attack and crunching defence.
At one stage the Lions’ Louis Ludik was left stunned for several minutes following a Mortlock bone-rattler.
But the Brumbies returned from the halftime break seemingly with butter fingers.
A succession of handling errors and poor attacking choices crippled numerous forward moves by the home team.
The Lions, who are bottom of the Super 14 table, were able to capitalise on the errors to grab the lead in the 51st minute.
Fullback Earl Rose scored and converted after an attacking break and then did the same again four minutes later.
A Rose high kick took a vicious bounce to flat-foot the Brumbies defence allowing the Lions to race through and score for a 21-13 lead.
The tries against the run of play saw the Lions gain in confidence and the game could have ended poorly for the home team except for a yellow card to Janse van Rensberg.
A try by Mark Gerrard and conversion and a Gerrard penalty goal brought the sides level at 21-all.
The final minutes were agony for the 14,078 home crowd as the Brumbies desperately sought the win but kept falling short due to handling errors.
It was a poor performance overall from the Brumbies but good enough to keep them in the hunt for a semi-finals berth.
The Brumbies head to South Africa for two games before facing the Force in Perth in the final round.
The victory lifts the Brumbies to fourth on the Super 14 ladder, but the ACT team could easily drop back to seventh after the round is completed Sunday.
Fullback Mark Gerrard pulled no punches in his post-game assessment.
“We played terrible. We’re going to have to work on the basics,” he said.
“Heading to South Africa, what happened tonight isn’t a set-back but it’s probably not the best way to finish the season at home.”
Coach Laurie Fisher, celebrating his 50th birthday, said a lack of drive early in the game, coupled with tough South African defence, had contributed to the poor handling performance.
“It was a scrappy win, it was just a bit of mental weakness,” Fisher said.
”(There was) nobody taking it forward, we should have just taken it to them.”
Mortlock said the team had made it very tough on themselves.
“That was probably the ugliest win I’ve been part of for a while,” he said.
Lions coach Eugene Eloff lamented another game that slipped from the team’s grasp after narrow losses earlier in the season to the Force, Hurricanes and Sharks and a draw with the Reds.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get away with the win, the boys showed a lot of character. One or two catches of the ball, and a better bounce, we could have caused a big upset,” Eloff said. “The boys showed a lot of guts and determination.”
BRUMBIES 28 (Mark Gerrard, Christian Lealiifano, Stirling Mortlock tries Gerrard, Mortlock cons Mortlock 2, Gerrard pens)
LIONS 21 (Earl Rose 2, Cobus Grobbelaar tries Rose 3 cons) at Canberra Stadium.
Referee: Kelvin Deaker (Nzl).