The Brumbies have kept their hopes of a Super Rugby finals berth alive after beating the Bulls 22-16 at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
But they face an anxious wait to learn the fate of Wallabies lock Sam Carter, who went off injured in the first half with what appeared to be a serious knee strain.
The loss of Carter could prove huge for the Brumbies in their final two regular season matches against Western Force in Perth next Friday and the Crusaders at home the following week.
But they didn’t let his early exit hamper their efforts against an equally-desperate Bulls outfit in Canberra, with winger Henry Speight scoring two tries to seal their second win in a row.
The victory has temporarily put them back on top of the Australian conference by one point ahead of the NSW Waratahs, who play the Lions in Johannesburg early on Sunday morning (AEST).
The three points didn’t come easy for the Brumbies, who were stretched to the limit by the Bulls.
Both sides were fighting for their seasons, having recently surrendered the lead in their respective conferences, and were ready to put up a fight.
Christian Lealiifano missed two early chances to open the Brumbies’ account with a wayward pair of penalty goal attempts inside the opening 10 minutes.
His opposite number had no such issues, Hendre Pollard easily slotting a long three-pointer to take the lead after 17 minutes.
He got another moments later to go 6-0 up, as the Bulls heaped the pressure on at the breakdown.
The Brumbies couldn’t break through the visitor’s solid defence and efforts to test their lineout proved fruitless early on.
The situation only got worse when they lost Carter following an accidental but sickening knock to the knee by Bjorn Basson in the 23rd minute.
Heavily strapped and with the help of medics, the lock limped off and did not return.
But that only fired up the Brumbies, with a penalty and try to Carter’s replacement Jordan Smiler – his first in Super Rugby – giving them an 8-6 buffer going into the break.
The Bulls regained the lead after an early second-half penalty goal, but a flying Henry Speight ensured that was only short-lived with two tries back-to-back – both converted by Lealiifano.
They could do nothing but watch, though, as the Bulls’ scored from a rolling maul moments later to reduce the 22-9 deficit to 22-16.
Despite a few late efforts from the South Africans, the Brumbies managed to hold on for the win.