Lealiifano downs the Blues
Christian Lealiifano kicked 15 points as the Brumbies overcame the Blues 20-13 in grim conditions in Auckland on Saturday.
Foul weather at Eden Park resulted in swirling wind and rain, turning basic handling into a lottery with both forwards and backs struggling to maintain possession.
The Brumbies did enough in the first half to get the upper hand over a slippery ball, building up a 14-0 advantage that the Blues were unable to reverse.
Heading into half-time having not scored a single point, a rollicking from Blues boss John Kirwan appeared to inspire his side into a second-half comeback as Rene Ranger crossed for an impressive try.
An early mistake from Ali Williams, the New Zealand lock who announced his international retirement earlier this week, handed Lealiifano an early opportunity for three points after the Blues went offside.
Matt Toomua was denied a try by the TMO after being marginally offside as the handling errors mounted - an effective Brumbies maul amounting to nothing after the ball slipped from Toomua's hands going forward.
The visitors opted to keep the ball tight with their pack and it paid off, mounting pressure in front of the Blues line resulting in an easy three points for Lealiifano - the Brumbies leading 6-0 after the opening quarter.
A phenomenal piece of skill from Nic White then put the Brumbies comfortably ahead. George Moala struggled to control the high ball from a box kick and White hacked on, sliding in from five metres out for the opening try.
The Blues first real chance to attack in the Brumbies 22 almost yielded their first points, but flanker Luke Braid was held up as he crossed the line.
Jesse Mogg nearly added three more points up the other end with a long-range penalty effort that fell wide to the right, but the visitors remained comfortably in front as the Blues continued to make handling errors at crucial moments.
Toomua's persistent kicking to the corner resulted in a five-metre scrum for the Brumbies just before the break - the resulting collapse leading to another shot at goal for Lealiifano out on the left, putting the visitors 14-0 ahead at half-time.
John Kirwan's fiery message to his side at the break brought an instant rewards as Chris Noakes added the first points of the match for the hosts.
With momentum swinging back in their favour the Blues cut the deficit - Piri Weepu's half-break releasing Ranger who broke through the Brumbies defence to cross over in the corner, with Noakes adding the conversion.
Lealiifano's penalty reestablished a seven-point lead as the Brumbies managed to dilute the Blues' surge, but with conditions improving the hosts opened up their game and produced more attacking opportunities.
Baden Kerr added another three points after the Blues won a penalty at the scrum to set up a tense finish heading into the final ten minutes, before Lealiifano eased those nerves with his fifth penalty of the night.
With 20 minutes of the match dominated by reset scrums, it was only appropriate that the Brumbies closed out the win with one inside the Blues half, White clearing to touch to take four points back to Canberra.
<b>For Blues:</b><br><b>Try:</b> Ranger<br><b>Con:</b> Noakes<br><b>Pens:</b> Noakes, Kerr
<b>For Brumbies:</b><br><b>Try:</b> White<br><b>Pens:</b> Lealiifano 5
<b>Blues:</b> 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao/Sam Prattley, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley/Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Kane Barrett, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.
<b>Brumbies:</b> 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Clyde Rathbone.
<b>Referee:</b> Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)<br><b>Assistant referees:</b> Jonathon White (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)<br><b>TMO:</b> Glenn Newman (New Zealand)