A strong second-half surge saw the Brumbies claim a 43-24 bonus-point win against the Reds in Canberra on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The victory sees the Brumbies open up a five-point lead at the top of the Australian conference, with the Waratahs set to play the Sunwolves on Saturday.
Although the scoreline does not reflect it, this was very much a rescue mission rather than a perfectly executed raid for the Brumbies. The hosts were given a stern challenge at the set pieces and had to live off scraps, but the Reds' execution let them down, while the Brumbies made every opportunity count.
Nine tries were scored, but the game itself wasn't of the highest quality, with 24 handling errors, 39 missed tackles and 18 turnovers.
The Reds started off superbly. They dominated field possession and were rewarded with an early 10-point lead courtesy of a penalty by centre Henry Taefu and a converted try from hooker Andrew Ready. But the hosts, through their forwards, built up a head of steam in the second quarter.
A penalty against Liam Gill for foul play allowed co-captain Christian Leali'ifano to get his side on the board with three points, before more ill-discipline by the Reds saw Stephen Moore barge over. The Brumbies kicked for touch and Moore scored off the back of an unstoppable drive.
The sides look set to head into the break deadlocked at 10-10, but a mistake by the Reds cost them. In an attempt to clear into touch, the kick was skewed off the side of the boot and the Brumbies kept it alive well after the hooter. After the backline had come close to the line with a series of offloads, prop Ben Alexander ran on to the ball at pace to force his way over.
The second half was the complete opposite of the first. The Reds were starved of possession and when they did get into Brumbies territory to score, the try was disallowed because of a foot in touch.
From that point, it was all Brumbies. Moore scored his second try of the match and seventh of the season to equal the Super Rugby record for most tries by a hooker in one campaign.
For a brief moment, the Reds sparked hopes of a comeback when Duncan Paia'aua crashed over to make it 22-17, but they fell flat after that.
Once the substitutes came on, the scrum contest turned in favour of the Brumbies, which laid the platform for their flurry of late tries. Leali'ifano, Tomás Cubelli and Lausii Taliauli were the recipients of that dominance.
Taniela Tupou scored on debut for the Reds late in the game, but it mattered little.
Brumbies – Tries: Stephen Moore (2), Ben Alexander, Christian Leali'ifano, Tomás Cubelli, Lausii Taliauli. Conversions: Leali'ifano (5). Penalty: Leali'ifano.
Reds – Tries: Andrew Ready, Duncan Paia'aua, Taniela Tupou. Conversions: Henry Taefu (3). Penalty: Taefu.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Leali'ifano (c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Ben Hyne, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Reds – 15 Jack Tuttle, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Duncan Paia'aua, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images