The Brumbies have picked up where they left off pre-shutdown to post a thrilling 31-23 Super Rugby AU win over the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra. There was rust early but almost four months without a game hasn’t diminished the Brumbies’ dominance over their Australian rivals.
Unbeaten in three games against the Rebels, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds before the suspension of the regular Super Rugby competition in March, the Brumbies’ latest victory confirms their favouritism for the revamped, smash-and-grab domestic tournament.
With the Rebels forced to relocate to the national capital eight days ago due to the alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, Saturday night’s showdown was billed as a new Canberra derby.
But GIO Stadium, even in front of the only 1500 fans allowed in during strict COVID-19 restrictions, remains the Brumbies’ house despite a gritty second-half fightback from the Rebels.
Dan McKellar’s home side kept the out-of-towners try-less for almost an hour while bagging four themselves to assume control.
Typically, the Brumbies’ first two five-pointers came after lineout wins.
Hooker Folau Fainga’a did superbly to back around after his throw in and then pop a lovely inside ball for winger Andy Muirhead to score untouched under the posts in just the third minute.
Noah Lolesio’s conversion gave the hosts a 7-0 lead before Matt Toomua cut the deficit to one point with two penalties as the Rebels’ scrum surprisingly dominated the Brumbies’ all-Wallabies front row.
After conceding four set-piece penalties in quick fashion, the referee warned the Brumbies a yellow card was coming next.
But they overcame their wobbles to open up a 19-6 halftime buffer.
The Brumbies’ signature driving maul delivered a try for lively halfback Joe Powell, then Fainga’a barged over for his sixth five-pointer of the season – and first in the new competition.
The Brumbies looked like galloping to an easy win when the impressive Lolesio burst free to put winger Tom Wright over three minutes after the break.
But back-to-back tries to hooker Jordan Uelese and skipper Dane Haylett-Petty and Tooma’s third penalty of the night reduced the margin to one point.
The Brumbies were up for the grandstand finish, though, with replacement forward Will Miller sealing victory with the Brumbies’ fifth try three minutes from time.
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