'Big-name' Brumbies stood up
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen says their key Wallaby players were instrumental in their 15-13 home win over the Cheetahs on Sunday.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen says their key Wallaby players were instrumental in their nail-biting 15-13 win over the Cheetahs in Canberra on Sunday.
The Brumbies scraped through to the Super Rugby semifinals when Cheetahs flyhalf Riaan Smit missed a last-minute conversion that would have sent the play-off into extra time.
The Brumbies, who topped the Australian conference and finished third overall at the end of the regular season, played a generally conservative and unimaginative match.
They kicked for field position and waited for the penalties that inevitably went against the Cheetahs at the fiercely contested breakdown.
Ace goal-kicker Christian Lealiifano and George Smith were the key men in this strategy as Lealiifano kicked four penalties and Smith turned in a tireless effort.
“It was a big game for our big-name players,” said Mowen, who also had a strong game.
Smith and Heinrich Brussow were locked in a massive battle not only at the breakdown but also across the park and Mowen was full of praise for the veteran Wallaby fetcher.
"That's an area of strength for us without a doubt, the breakdown," Mowen said.
“Once again George’s defence was amazing for us tonight. He’s done that throughout his career and again tonight."
Mowen admitted he watched in trepidation as Smit's last kick rose towards the posts.
"You always worry when a South African guy's having a kick at goal because they're usually dead on the money," Mowen said. "But, fortunately for us, it went our way there.
"I thought there were moments throughout that game when we played some really good footy. We spoke in the dressing room about being enthusiastic, we spoke about out-willing them in those moments and I thought for the majority of the game we did that.
"That was a good effort but we're going to build now and try to run all the way through. We're pretty comfortable with the things we've been working on but we've just got to make sure we execute them under game pressure."
Brumbies coach Jake White praised his team’s composure.
“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,” said White.
"You look at all successful teams, they win those close games. The one thing that sticks out, [the Brumbies] play for each other; that's evident in the way they play. They have a belief in themselves; they believe they can get the job done.
"It didn't matter whether we conceded a try quickly or that the first time they're in our half they get a five-pointer; you can just see the way they talk to each other. They don't panic, they understand what they have to do, and they have belief in the structure of how they want to play."
White warned, however, that his team will have to be more clinical when they come up against the Bulls and Springbok sharpshooter Morné Steyn in their semifinal in Pretoria.
"Mentally we have to be ready for something that's coming. There's a sell-out crowd at Loftus - 58,000 people - they've got an unbelievable record there in terms of finals footy,” said White.
“They've got a goal-kicker like Morné Steyn; obviously he won't miss those kicks like they were missed tonight. Mentally, we just have to be prepared for what's coming."
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