Super Rugby
Brumbies keep their playoff hopes alive
ESPN Staff
May 29, 2015
Date/Time: May 29, 2015, 19:40 local, 09:40 GMT
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Brumbies 22 - 16 Bulls
Half-time: 8 - 6
Tries: Smiler, Speight 2
Cons: Leali'ifano 2
Pens: Leali'ifano
Tries: Labuschagne
Cons: Pollard
Pens: Pollard 3
Henry Speight of the Brumbies is tackled, Brumbies v Bulls, Super Rugby, GIO Stadium, Canberra, May 29, 2015
Henry Speight had an impressive game breaking through the defence for a double
© Getty Images
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The Brumbies secured a tight six-point victory over the Bulls keeping their finals hopes alive as they move to the top of the Australian conference. The Bulls were given several chances in the final 10 minutes to steal the win and move to the top of the South African conference, but poor handling and decisions gave the Brumbies the match.

The Brumbies will be happy with their tough win but they face an anxious wait to learn the fate of Wallabies lock Sam Carter, who went off injured in the first half with what appeared to be a serious knee strain. The loss of Carter could prove huge for the Brumbies in their final two regular season matches against Western Force in Perth next Friday and the Crusaders at home the following week.

But they didn't let his early exit hamper their efforts against an equally-desperate Bulls outfit in Canberra, with winger Henry Speight scoring two tries to seal their second win in a row. The victory has temporarily put them back on top of the Australian conference by one point ahead of the NSW Waratahs, who play the Lions in Johannesburg early on Sunday morning (AEST).

The Brumbies down the Bulls 22-16 in Canberra (Australia only)

The three points didn't come easy for the Brumbies, who were stretched to the limit by the Bulls. Both sides were fighting for their seasons, having recently surrendered the lead in their respective conferences, and were ready to put up a fight.

Christian Leali'ifano missed two early chances to open the Brumbies' account with a wayward pair of penalty goal attempts inside the opening 10 minutes. His opposite number had no such issues, Hendre Pollard easily slotting a long three-pointer to take the lead after 17 minutes. He got another moments later to go 6-0 up, as the Bulls heaped the pressure on at the breakdown.

The Brumbies couldn't break through the visitor's solid defence and efforts to test their lineout proved fruitless early on. The situation only got worse when they lost Carter following an accidental but sickening knock to the knee by Bjorn Basson in the 23rd minute. Heavily strapped and with the help of medics, the lock limped off and did not return.

But that only fired up the Brumbies, with a penalty and try to Carter's replacement Jordan Smiler - his first in Super Rugby - giving them an 8-6 buffer going into the break. The Bulls regained the lead after an early second-half penalty goal, but a flying Henry Speight ensured that was only short-lived with two tries back-to-back - both converted by Leali'ifano.

They could do nothing but watch, though, as the Bulls' scored from a rolling maul moments later to reduce the 22-9 deficit to 22-16. Despite a few late efforts from the South Africans, the Brumbies managed to hold on for the win.

"It was a difficult game for us," said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham. "I think losing Sam Carter in that first half made it really hard with the changes in the forward pack, but I thought we handled it quite well in the second half."

Larkham wasn't sure how bad Carter's injury was and didn't want to pre-empt the results of scans on Saturday.

"He's in a brace at the moment," he said. "It doesn't look like good news at this stage but we'll wait and see what the scans reveal."

Captain Stephen Moore lauded his side's defensive effort and the Brumbies' reserves, who held things together despite some confusion following Carter's departure.

"I thought our desperation was pretty good there in the end," Moore said. "And at this point of the season we just need to win, and we found a way to do that tonight."

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said Speight's brace - his third in Super Rugby - proved the turning point and leaves his side's finals chances at the behest of their rivals.

"Until the last whistle of the last game, you still hope," he said. "But we need some favours from other sides."

Sam Carter receives treatment for a knee injury © Getty Images
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