Brumbies coach Dan McKellar and captain Christian Lealiifano (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Magnificent defending for long periods and opportunism on the rare occasions they attacked earned the Brumbies a 19-17 Super Rugby victory over the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Luck was also on the side of the Australian tourists as the South Africans spurned numerous kickable penalties at Newlands, preferring scrums and lineouts.
In an unusual end to the first half, some of the Brumbies players were in the tunnel leading to the changing rooms before being called back onto the field by referee Nick Briant.
A high tackle on a Stormer was spotted by the television match official after the Briant blew for half-time, and the South Africans were awarded a penalty try while visiting winger Toni Pulu was sin-binned.
The Brumbies had their lead reduced to 12-10 as they trooped off the pitch a second time and fell five points behind when a 45th-minute Wilco Louw try was converted by Josh Stander.
What proved the crucial score came on 58 minutes when unmarked Tom Banks casually crossed the line after a lofted miss-pass from skipper Christian Lealiifano, who converted the try.
“It was an incredible defensive effort from my boys,” said Lealiifano as the Brumbies won away for the first time this season after four losses on the road.
“The Stormers kept coming at us, applying immense pressure, and we gave an epic performance to keep them out.
“I thought the contest between the packs was awesome, especially at the scrums. Winning this match will give us massive confidence going forward.”
Stormers skipper Steven Kitshoff defended his decisions to repeatedly opt for set-pieces when awarded penalties instead of kicking for goal.
“I believed we could score tries from the set-pieces and that influenced my decision making. We spent so much time inside their 22 and would have won had the chances been taken.
“The outcome hinged on execution. The Brumbies took the few chances they had and we scored less points from far more opportunities.”
Australian international Peter Samu did well to avoid going into touch before dotting down in the corner to give the Canberra outfit an early 5-0 lead.
Stander responded with a penalty before another Brumbies forward scored with Rory Arnold charging down an attempted clearance from Herschel Jantjies.
Lealiifano converted for a 12-3 lead they retained under continuous pressure until the penalty try narrowed the gap to two points by the break.
A Louw pushover try and a Stander conversion gave the Stormers a 17-12 lead that lasted 10 minutes before Banks scored and Lealiifano converted from the touchline for a two-point lead.
After surviving another spell of immense Stormers pressure, the Australians finished the match in South African territory without adding any points.
A losing bonus point lifted the Cape Town side one place on the combined standings to 10th, while they lie bottom of the South African conference.
The Brumbies rose three places overall to 11th and are third in the Australian section, five points behind leaders the Melbourne Rebels.