Mehrtens puts on Super show

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The Independent Online

Canterbury won their third consecutive Super 12 championship the hard way, beating the ACT Brumbies20-19 away in Canberra, and owed their victory to the boot of the All Black Andrew Mehrtens.

Canterbury won their third consecutive Super 12 championship the hard way, beating the ACT Brumbies20-19 away in Canberra, and owed their victory to the boot of the All Black Andrew Mehrtens.

Both sides crossed for one try, but with just three minutes left and the Brumbies two points in front, the New Zea-land No 10 was on target with a 41-metre penalty attempt, his fifth success, before acapacity crowd of 27,489 at Bruce Stadium.

The Brumbies were attempting to become the first Australian team to take the Super 12 title - Auckland were the winners in 1996 and 1997 - but their cause was not helped when Stirling Mortlock missed four of his nine attempts at goal. The Crusaders showed too much aggression for the Brumbies, bustling them into repeated infringements. With snow drifting over Bruce Stadium and the temperature plunging, the home favourites were unable to find a way through the tight Canterbury defence around the ruck.

The Crusaders, in contrast, showed composure and purpose, and turned on a strong display of mistake-free rugby to dominate possession. The Brumbies looked increasingly rattled as time ticked away, with Mortlock making a mess of two early penalty attempts and the hooker Jeremy Paul off-target with a line-out throw as his side were threatening the Crusaders' line midway through the opening half.

The hard-pressed Brumbies won a reprieve only when the referee Andre Watson sent the Crusaders prop Greg Somerville to the sin-bin with 10 minutes left in the half, which ended with Canterbury 12-3 ahead, four penalties to one.

The Brumbies opened the second half more positively, putting together a succession of attacks out wide which at one stage saw the No 8 Jim Williams held up over the Crusaders' line. But Mortlock's woes with the boot continued as he clawed back only three points from a further four attempts.

The Crusaders made no such mistakes, and when the No 8 Jim Cribb charged through a soft Paul tackle and chipped ahead to regather, the visitors grabbed the first try of the match after 52 minutes.

With the match looking beyond the home team, it was left to the 19-year-old replacement flanker George Smith to bring them back into contention. From a line-out close to the Crusaders line, he charged through five defenders to cross beside the posts and set up the conversion for Mortlock.

With only minutes left, the Brumbies briefly took the lead at 19-17 when Mortlock was on target with a close-range penalty. But then Mehrtens sealed the matter with his late penalty.

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