Brumbies and Sharks progress to semi-finals
July 19, 2014
The Sharks celebrate Marcell Coetzee's try © Getty Images
The Brumbies and the Sharks booked their place in the semi-finals of Super Rugby as they saw off the threats of the Chiefs and Highlanders respectively.
The Brumbies' 32-30 win sees them journey to Sydney to play the Waratahs while the Sharks travel to Christchurch to play the Crusaders next weekend.
First up on a remarkable day of rugby was the match in Canberra where the Brumbies stormed into an early lead only to see the Chiefs come back in the second-half but the home side had just enough in the tank to end the visitor's hopes of a third consecutive Super Rugby title.
The Brumbies came out of the blocks at a relentless pace with Nic White's try after five minutes getting their side of the scoreboard ticking over after Aaron Cruden gave the Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The Chiefs were at this stage down to 14 men and Robbie Coleman punished them further after when he crashed over after a good break from Jesse Mogg. Just 11 minutes after Coleman's effort, the Brumbies had their third try when Mogg got one of his own darting into the corner.
But with six minutes left until half-time, the Chiefs got their first try when Bundee Aki profited from relentless pressure on the Brumbies' try line. After penalties were exchanged at the start of the second-half, in almost a carbon copy of the start of the first 40, the Chiefs profited from a one-man advantage to put two tries on the Henry Speight-less Brumbies. The Chiefs punished the one man advantage with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Nanai-Williams scoring to draw the level at 25 apiece.
Speight soon returned to the field and the Brumbies found renewed impetus to retake the lead when Jarrad Butler was left holding the ball after their rolling maul bulldozed over the line in the 60th minute. Christian Leali'ifano soon had a chance to make it 35-25 to the Brumbies but his penalty sailed wide and the Chiefs smelt blood.
Henry Speight caused the Chiefs all sorts of problems © Getty Images
Gareth Anscombe, who had only been on the field for three minutes, slid over in the corner in the 76th minute but Cruden's conversion sailed past the left post leaving them two points down. The match finished in the Chiefs' 22 and the Brumbies could have stretched their lead by a further three points but they successfully played the clock down to book their place in the final four.
Later in the day the Sharks saw off a valiant effort from the Highlanders winning 31-27. It was the Sharks who started the better of the two sides with their dominant pack causing the Highlanders' all sorts of difficulty and they eventually turned their set piece dominance into points when Marcell Coetzee was at the back of a driving lineout to dot the ball down. They thought they had their second soon after but Jannie du Plessis' effort was ruled out for a double movement. Following Frans Steyn's second penalty, which made the score 13-3 in favour of the Sharks, the tide turned thanks in part to two bits of skill from Ben Smith.
First, Smith's neat inside pass teed up Malakai Fekitoa who sprinted 50 metres and finished well amid Sharks pressure. Then, with the clock in over-time, Smith quick-tapped a penalty on his own five-metre line and the Highlanders went through numerous phases to score an impressive 95-metre move with loose-head Kane Hames trundling over.
The second-half started as a nip and tuck affair and after a Highlanders' penalty from Lima Sopoaga, the Sharks had their second try when scrum pressure saw the ball bounce loose behind the Highlanders' line and Bismarck du Plessis dived on the loose ball. And the Sharks did not have to wait long for another try as Tondi Chavhanga exploited space on the wing to sprint away.
But their joy proved to be short-lived. The lead changed hands once again when Phil Burleigh plucked Patrick Osborne's impressive off-load to charge over and with Sopoaga's conversion, the visitors retook the lead.
As the errors increased along with fatigue, the chances became more frequent and Jean Deysel thought he had given the Sharks the lead once again but he knocked on over the line. But from the resulting scrum, the Sharks forced the penalty on the Highlanders' put-in and Steyn put his side a point in front with seven minutes remaining. And despite the Highlanders attempting to get control of the ball, the Sharks retained much of the possession and Steyn's last-minute penalty gave the South African side the win.
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