Chiefs beat Brumbies 29-22 in Super 15
HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) Center Jackson Willison scored a last-minute try, converted by All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden, to give the Waikato Chiefs a 29-22 win over the ACT Brumbies in Super 15 rugby on Friday.
A match which had been a goalkicking duel for almost 70 minutes came alive in the last 10 minutes with three tries - two to the Chiefs and one to the Brumbies - before Waikato clinched its third win from four games. The Brumbies suffered their first loss of the season and slipped to 2-1 after an early-season bye.
Cruden and Brumbies opposite Christian Leali'ifano engaged in a tit-for-tat exchange of penalties for 69 minutes, until the score was locked at 15-15. Prop Sona Taumalolo and Willison then scored tries for the Chiefs on either side of a Brumbies try scored by replacement lock Sam Carter.
"I don't know if it was an outstanding game," Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said. "We struggled a bit and we were going backwards a fair bit of the time but we showed a bit of character and a bit of fight and that got us through. The Brumbies were up in our face, their defense was good and we were struggling to get go forward."
Cruden and Leali'ifano battled to give their teams the upper hand in the match until Taumalolo interrupted their goalkicking duel with the first try of the match. Taumalolo has become one of the Chiefs' leading try-scorers this season, touching down in each of his last three games.
He scored on Friday in typical style, supporting No. 8 Kane Thompson when he drove towards the goal line from the back of a five-meter scrum, taking a short pass and using his strength and low center of gravity to crash through the last of the defense.
Cruden's conversion gave the Chiefs a 22-15 lead in a match in which neither team had previously led by more than three points. Cruden kicked three goals from three attempts and Leali'ifano three from four in the first half which progressed in three-point increments to a 9-9 halftime stalemate.
Scoring continued in the same fashion in the second half with two goals each by Cruden and Leali'ifano until the 15-15 deadlock.
Taumalolo broke that scoring pattern with the first try but the Brumbies proved equal to the challenge and hit back within five minutes through Carter. ACT carried the ball through a long series of phases, until it was on the brink of the Chiefs' goal line and Carter was able to drive over on a narrow blindside.
Leali'ifano converted to tie the scores.
The 22-22 tie remained until the final minute when the Chiefs, from a turnover, drove the ball relentlessly into Brumbies territory, set up a final ruck near the goal line and Cruden moved the ball speedily to Willison who scored inches from the corner flag.
Cruden added the conversion almost from the sideline to finish with seven goals from seven attempts and to improve his success rate for the season to more than 75 percent. Leali'ifano finished with six from seven after converting Carter's try.
"It was a little bit disappointing in the end but I think some of the things we did in the game, our carry and our defense, was consistent which is what we were chasing," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said.
"There's a really good mentality underlining what we're trying to do here and that's good. We were a little bit unlucky in the end but there were some positives there and some things to work on."
Waikato 29 (Sona Taumalolo, Jackson Willison tries; Aaron Cruden 2 conversions, 5 penalties), ACT 22 (Sam Carter try; Christian Leali'ifano conversion, 5 penalties). HT: 9-9.
Updated March 16, 2012