The Brumbies clinched the Australian conference title with a 32-3 bonus-point win against the Rebels in Canberra on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Under the flawed Super Rugby format, the Australian conference winners are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The Brumbies, therefore, will finish fourth on the overall log, despite having fewer log points than five teams below them. They will also host their quarter-final.
The Rebels have now suffered seven consecutive defeats and look likely to be the Australian franchise axed from the competition.
The Brumbies led just 6-3 after half an hour of this Australian derby, but when awarded another kickable penalty, Henry Speight took a quick tap. He was brought down just short of the line, but the hosts had an overlap out wide and Jordan Smiler scored in the left-hand corner to make it 11-3.
The Brumbies struck again early in the second half when Tevita Kuridrani received possession from first receiver and barged his way over for a converted try. At the end of the third quarter, Chris Alcock broke away from a lineout driving maul, and from the next ruck Wharenui Hawera scored under the sticks.
Handling errors during a scrappy period of the game prevented the hosts from adding to their tally, and they then had to defend their line fiercely – and their bonus point – when Marika Koroibete sprinted down the left-hand touchline, only to be tackled just short. Much to the Brumbies' relief, they won a breakdown penalty soon after.
With two minutes to go, Nigel Ah Wong scored his side's fourth try, after the ball came off Steve Cummins' foot, to seal the deal.
Brumbies – Tries: Jordan Smiler, Tevita Kuridrani, Wharenui Hawera, Nigel Ah Wong. Conversions: Hawera (3). Penalties: Hawera (2).
Rebels – Penalty: Reece Hodge.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks,14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Andrew Muirhead, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Will Miller, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Jonah Placid.
Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images