The ACT Brumbies prevented defending champion Canterbury from booking a home playoff match with a 15-6 win over the Crusaders in Super 14 rugby Saturday.
Wallabies flyhalf Stephen Larkham, playing his last home match for the Brumbies, kicked a dropped goal with three minutes left to clinch the win for the Brumbies, their fourth straight. Stirling Mortlock kicked three penalties for the Brumbies.
Daniel Carter, who spent the first half of the Super 14 season rested as part of an All Black conditioning program ahead of the World Cup, put the Crusaders ahead 3-0 in the seventh minute. That raised his kicking performance to better than 80 percent since returning from his break, and he improved on that mark with a second-half penalty.
The Brumbies led 9-3 at halftime.
The match was the final at home for three veterans who won't return to the Brumbies next season - Wallabies captain George Gregan, Larkham and Jeremy Paul. A grandstand was named for the halfback-flyhalf pairing of Gregan and Larkham.
With fireworks marking the special occasion, the two stars received an enthusiastic applause when the grandstand was unveiled just before kickoff.
"Those sort of things normally happen to people who have passed away. I guess we have passed away in a professional rugby (sense)," said Gregan. "We're putting RIP at the end of this year. But it's something that's very humbling and you don't expect that to happen."
Gregan and Larkham are the only two players remaining from the Brumbies' foundation team of 1996.
"Stevie and I have been here since the day dot basically," Gregan said. "We've played all our youth rugby here, grown up here and gone from playing New South Wales and Queensland once or twice a year here to being in the international provincial competition."
Gregan will end his career with a six-month stint at French second division club Toulon following this year's World Cup in France.
"When you get to 34, you realize you're not going to be playing rugby all your life," Gregan said.
Larkham, 32, has not announced whether he will also travel overseas, but he's expected to do so.
Hooker Paul, a veteran of 111 Super matches for the Brumbies, also played his last game at Canberra Stadium. The 30-year-old front-rower plans to retire.
"It's exciting to be finishing my career with two Canberra legends ... these two can take the limelight. I'm happy with that," said Paul.
ACT 15 (Stirling Mortlock 3 penalties, Julian Huxley penalty, Stephen Larkham drop goal), Canterbury 6 (Daniel Carter 2 penalties). HT: 9-3.
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