The Brumbies claimed a come-from-behind 31-14 victory over the Western Force in Canberra on Friday to wrap up top spot in the Super Rugby AU standings.
The result sees the Brumbies open up an unassailable lead at the top of the table with one round of regular season fixtures remaining and thus secure a home final berth. The teams that finish second and third will compete in a playoff for the chance to take on the Brumbies in the title-deciding match.
Notwithstanding the result, the match itself was a dreadful contest, particularly in the first half. There were more scoring opportunities in the second stanza, but the quality of play remained substandard.
The Force drew first blood when flank Fergus Lee-Warner barged over to convert their early pressure into points. The visitors had ample opportunity to extend their lead, but stubborn defence by the Brumbies kept them at bay.
Having weathered the storm at the other end, the Brumbies wrestled back the momentum but then had to tries disallowed, one for an obstruction in the build-up play and another for a knock-on right on the tryline.
With the clock winding down to the midway mark, the Brumbies finally pierced the Force’s defensive wall and struck a double blow to take a 10-7 lead at the interval. Flyhalf Bayley Kuenzle missed both his conversion attempts.
The sides would both cross for a converted try each to maintain the three-point difference, but then the Brumbies seized total control thanks to the influence of their replacement players.
The hosts added two more tries, through backs Len Ikitau and Andy Muirhead and then had another try disollowed, their third of the game. However, the stat that stands out is the fact that Brumbies have now gone six games without conceding a point in the last 20 minutes of their matches.
Brumbies – Tries: Tom Wright, Tom Banks, Will Miller, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead. Conversions: Bayley Kuenzle (3).
Force – Try: Fergus Lee-Warner, Jono Lance. Conversion: Ian Prior (2).
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Solomane Kata, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Bayley Kuenzle, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Lachlan McCaffery, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Nic White, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Len Ikitau.
Western Force – 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Tevin Ferris, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Richard Kahui, 23 Jake Strachan.
Photo: Rugby AU/Twitter