The hero the Brumbies not only wanted but needed

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Ryan Lonergan celebrates with Brumbies fans after the win. Photos: Brumbies Rugby

THE halfway point is almost the invisible line for rugby’s stressed goalkickers.

They all know it. Except that line is clearly marked.

But 50 metres out is the range that short of playing at the altitude-induced Ellis Park, the shot is near impossible to reach while dropping over the uprights.

Canberra Stadium nestled between the nearby picturesque Blue Gums with its sunken field is anything but the famous Johannesburg arena, perched up 1,724 metres above sea level where the thin oxygen ensures the ball travels further.

So Ryan Lonergan’s penalty kick measured around 58 metres when taking into account the angle of his wider near-touch line position was one for the ages for the ACT Brumbies on Saturday (March 6).

The fact the shot was after the final whistle will just add to the legend in years to come.

Though the 22-year-old was playing the matchwinning moment down compared to another much more low-key strike in front of fewer eyewitnesses in suburban Canberra.

“I think I had kicked one at Gowrie from about 55 (metres), but it was like a balloon,” he grinned.

“It is much easier to kick those balls, but I think that’s is up there for one of the longest I’ve hit.

“I’m usually a 45-metre type-of-guy, but I just gave it everything.”

Replacement hooker Lachlan Lonergan, sitting in the after-match press conference, could not resist a quick dig at his brother’s remark that “you doubt all my kicks”.

“Especially with your little legs,” before the older sibling turned, still smiling, chirped back, “I bought WeetBix this morning.”

The scores were tied at full-time when the reserve halfback put the ACT Brumbies up 27-24 to win and break the hearts of the Melbourne Rebels.

In a kick that was similar but greater than that of after-the-siren shot from Wallabies lock and captain John Eales for skill and ability but just not occasion against the All Blacks, the former Trinity Christian School student wrote down his own page into Super Rugby folklore.

Never mind that had Lonergan missed the goal, the match would have gone into extra time under the rule changes of the competition to eliminate draws.

“I was quite nervous about it to be honest and then obviously it was drawing and going to golden try,” he said.

“So you just have a shot you don’t take – I thought I’d give it a crack.

“It felt good – I  just wanted to start it out right a little bit and then just hug that inside corner because it was a little bit closer to me.

“If I didn’t do that, I would have hit the crossbar.”

As the ball dropped over against a breeze, arms raised was an invitation for teammates to pile on Lonergan and embrace the victory that never looked assured over the 80 minutes.

The celebrations got so wild that it caused injured hooker Connal McInereny in a moonboot to drop his crutch and hobble from the bench back inside the sidelines to greet a swamped Lonergan.

To win it against the odds after Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa was sent off for the game from a misdirected high shot made the last penalty goal, compared to ex-teammate Matt To’omua’s eight on the night, something that Lonergan could never imagine.

“It’s a part of the job. It’s why you goal kick. I love kicking and I’ve always loved it. I am just happy I could hit it,” Lonergan said.

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