AUSTRALIA'S ACT Brumbies survived a late surge from New Zealand's Otago Highlanders to win their Super 14 match 22-20 in Canberra yesterday.
The Brumbies led 17-7 at half-time but were lucky to get away with the win when Otago full-back James Wilson missed a late penalty that would have put the visitors in front.
The Highlanders made a strong start when winger Fetu'u Vainikolo scored the opening try and Wilson converted but the Brumbies quickly regained their composure. Inside centre Anthony Faingaa scored before leaving the field with a knee injury then the Brumbies were awarded a penalty try to give the home side a 10-point lead at the interval.
Wilson booted two penalties to reduce the margin to four points early in the second half but a try by Brumbies' number eight Stephen Hoiles restored the advantage.
Reserve prop Chris King barged his way over 15 minutes from the end and Wilson converted to give Otago a chance of winning but they missed their opportunity when Wilson's late penalty attempt was off target.
Brumbies captain George Smith was full of praise for his team after they went into the match missing several key players, including internationals Stirling Mortlock, Clyde Rathbone and Adam Ashley-Cooper. "To get a win at home is fantastic for the boys, we really stuck at it for the last 20 minutes," Smith said.
Otago skipper Jason Macdonald was cursing his team's misfortune after they suffered their second narrow loss of the season.
"I thought if we had a get out of jail free card that we might have been able to use it tonight, but it wasn't to be," Macdonald said.
In Hamilton, Waikato fly-half Stephen Donald kicked a last-minute penalty to hand New Zealand's Chiefs a 20-17 win over Australia's New South Wales Waratahs.
The Chiefs looked to be cruising to victory when they opened up a 17-0 lead inside the first 43 minutes after Liam Messam, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Richard Kahui all scored tries.
However, the Waratahs stormed home in the second half, scoring three tries of their own through Ben Jacobs, Sam Harris and Lote Tuqiri to level the scores at 17-17 with just four minutes remaining.
Flyhalf Kurtley Beale missed the sideline conversion that would have given his side a two-point lead but it proved irrelevant when the Waratahs gave away a penalty straight after and Donald landed the kick into the wind.
"It was a pretty vital game for us," Waikato captain Jono Gibbes said. "Big ups to Stephen Donald taking that last penalty, that was big-time pressure and I didn't even have to ask him, he just took it."
Waratahs skipper Phil Waugh said his team only had themselves to blame after clawing their way back into the match.
"We put ourselves in position to win in the second half with the wind behind us but we just didn't put the finishing touches," he said.