It might not have been pretty but it could prove to be a crucial victory as the Brumbies edged past the Bulls to remain unbeaten at home and top the Australian conference thanks to a penalty kicked after the siren by Christian Lealiifano.
- Related Content
Lealiifano crashed over a 40-metre kick from in front of the posts to the delight of the home crowd to secure a dramatic victory for his team in a match that was largely forgettable up to a sensational conclusion.
Indeed, there was very little rugby played by either team in a match that degenerated into a kicking content between Lealiifano and the Bulls' Morne Steyn, but few in ACT white were complaining as four more precious points were accumulated.
The first half was a rather fractious affair punctuated by the whistle of referee Jonathon White, who hardly let the game flow although he was not helped by consistent infringement at the ruck and maul.
As a consequence, neither side were able to really get hold of the contest, leading to discontent among the local support.
And the place-kicking mirrored the action, lacking direction and accuracy, as the Bulls' Steyn and the Brumbies' Nic White both saw place-kicks miss, Steyn dragging his attempt right to left across the face of goal, while White drifted his 45-metre effort wide of the mark.
It took 19 minutes for the deadlock to finally be broken, as Lealiifano was successful with a mid-range shot at goal to put the home side ahead after the Bulls infringed at the ruck, but the lead lasted barely two minutes before the Bulls responded with a penalty of their own, slotted confidently by Steyn.
The kicking game continued throughout the opening half as Lealiifano restored the Brumbies' three-point advantage with a beautifully struck penalty close to the touchline after the South Africans were pinged at the scrum.
The Brumbies' inside centre made it three from three four minutes before the half-time siren as the visitors were let down by indiscipline once again.
With the crowd baying for some running rugby the Brumbies finally strung together a sustained period of pressure to cross for the game's opening try after the half-time siren.
A succession of forays deep inside the Bulls' 22 sucked in the cover and quick hands allowed full-back Robbie Coleman to join the line at pace, cut inside and cross, stretching over at the second attempt.
Lealiifano hit the post with the conversion but the Brumbies still led 14-3 at the break.
Trailing by eleven points, the Bulls' mind-set needed to change for the second stanza and they started by stringing together their most meaningful passage of play yet, resulting in left winger Petrus Visser crossing the line out wide but dropping the ball in the process after a slick handling move across the back line.
It was a short-lived let off for the Brumbies as in the very next attack a misplaced pass freed Visser on the overlap and the winger dummied his way over for a well-taken try. Steyn's conversion brushed the post on its way through to reduce the gap to four.
A monstrous penalty from Steyn in the 65th minute from close to half-way - which comfortably cleared the crossbar with plenty to spare - put the match back in the melting pot as the Brumbies nerves began to fray.
A calm head was required, especially as the Brumbies were handed a numerical advantage when Bulls prop Morne Mellett was banished to the sin bin for persistent infringement, but the mistakes continued to mount.
The home side needed a boost and they got it ten minutes from time. A rare foray into Bulls territory was rewarded when Lealiifano calmly kicked a 30-metre penalty awarded after the visitors failed to roll away from the tackle and the Brumbies led 17-13.
And when Lealiifano took his personal haul to fifteen points six minutes from time while yet another successful pot at goal it left the tourists with plenty to do.
Incredibly they managed to claw their way back into the contest with a try of sheer simplicity.
A break to half-way enabled the Bulls to create space out wide and centre Johannes Engelbrecht showed his acceleration bursting clear of the despairing cover to cross in the corner. Steyn added a superb conversion from out wide and the scores were level.
A draw seemed certain but the Brumbies were gifted a chance to win it by another Bulls error.
Referee White awarded the Brumbies a penalty for not releasing the ball, a cardinal sin at that late stage, and Lealiifano did the rest to raise the roof at Canberra Stadium.