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The University of Canberra Brumbies will fly to South Africa on Monday morning to meet the Bulls for a Grand Final spot after downing the Cheetahs 15-13 in a nail biting affair at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
In the first finals match played at Canberra Stadium in nine years, the University of Canberra Brumbies had to endure a post-siren conversion attempt by Cheetahs flyhalf Riaan Smit which would have sent the game into overtime.
Fortunately for the Brumbies the shot shaved the uprights sealing the Cheetahs destiny and confirming the home side’s spot in the semi-finals.
The Cheetahs defence proved impenetrable as the visitors outscored the Brumbies two tries to none. Four penalties to Christian Lealiifano and one to Nic White saved the Brumbies with the Cheetahs missing three shots which would have reversed the result.
“We got lucky with that kick at the end there, but when I look back at that game from last week when we didn’t play well there’s no doubt that our graph has started to go up,” Head Coach Jake White said.
“We spoke a lot about the fact that finals footy means playing for 80 minutes and we had to play 81 to get the result. It doesn’t get any bigger than a sell out semi-final at Loftus, it’s massive for this group of players.
“They’re a South African side and we know what they’re like. They’ll play with their forwards and use Morne Steyn to add the extras. But if we play to our best there’s no reason we can’t take a result.”
The game started with Lealiifano slotting the first points before the Cheetahs reclaimed the lead thanks to a wonderful try to outside centre, Johann Sadie.
Sadie linked with Ramond Rhule who ran an elusive line to collect a perfect pass from Willie Le Roux. The conversion was waved away and a second Lealiifano penalty sent the Brumbies to the break 6-5 up.
More penalties to Lealiifano and White after the break gave the Brumbies a seven point buffer but with a minute to go replacement winger Ryno Benjamin found space and scored in the corner.
The conversion attempt looked to be sailing over before a late fade sent the Cheetahs packing.
The University of Canberra Brumbies left Canberra for Sydney on Sunday night before flying to Johannesburg on Monday morning.
University of Canberra Brumbies 15 (Christian Lealiifano 4, Nic White penalty goals) bt Cheetahs 13 (Ryno Benjamin, Johann Sadie tries; Riaan Smit penalty goal) at Canberra Stadium on Sunday. Referee: Glen Jackson. Crowd: 14,020.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Scott Sio
2. Stephen Moore
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Cater (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
6. Peter Kimlin
7. George Smith (replaced by Colby Faingaa)
8. Ben Mowen (c)
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Clyde Rathbone (replaced by Joe Tomane)
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Siliva Siliva
17. Ruan Smith
18. Fotu Auelua
19. Colby Faingaa
20. Ian Prior
21. Andrew Smith
22. Joe Tomane