The Brumbies ran in four unanswered tries in the second half in Canberra on Saturday night to smash the Tahs 38-11 and move to 23 points on the Super Rugby AU ladder, two points clear of Queensland.
On Friday night the Reds crossed for eight tries in a 57-5 bonus-point victory over the Western Force, which temporarily gave them the competition lead before the Brumbies’ victory.
The Brumbies next face the winless Force and then take on the Reds in the final round, with the top team advancing straight through to a home grand final and second and third meeting in a preliminary final.
The Reds have the bye next round, followed by NSW (15 points) in the final week, giving both teams just one more chance to state their case for the play-offs.
The Rebels are on 14 points but have two matches ahead.
While bitterly disappointed with their second-half showing after only trailing 11-12 at the break, Waratahs skipper Rob Simmons felt his team could rise to the challenge for the Leichhardt Oval match next Saturday night.
“I’m very confident – we have to, playing the Rebels it’s going to be must-win,” Simmons said.
“It’s our last chance to get points on the board.”
Losing five line-outs, Simmons said the mistakes gifted the Brumbies.
“It’s a strength and can usually get us into a game but it wasn’t there … and they scored off our turnovers.
“As the pressure built we didn’t lift to that occasion.”
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was delighted with the way his team had responded after their shock loss to Melbourne before the bye, which was their first of the competition.
While so many of their tries have come from their rolling maul, the team also showed they are far from one-trick ponies, with none of the six coming that strength.
“We were under pressure, conceding that try just before halftime and I thought our second half was excellent,” McKellar said.
“We put them under pressure and forced them to play out of their end, chasing the game, and in those conditions it’s pretty tough.
“That performance comes off the back of our preparation – we had an excellent week after the Rebels game so I’m pleased.”
Super Rugby AU scenarios:
Brumbies – currently 23 points – best 33
Queensland Reds – 21, best 26
NSW Waratahs – 15, best 20
Melbourne Rebels – 14 – best 24
Western Force – 2 – best 10
– Melissa Woods
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