The Brumbies withstood a second-half comeback from the Rebels to claim a 31-23 win in Canberra on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The win gave the Brumbies back-to-back victories over the Rebels for the first time since 2015 and it was their sixth straight home win against an Australian rival.
Aside from the three Brumbies tries, the first half was a rather dreary affair with both sides struggling to retain possession for any meaningful amount of time. There were a total of 11 turnovers conceded between the two teams in the first 40 minutes. While the Rebels had the better possession and territory, they really could not string anything together in the face of a physical Brumbies defence.
Despite boasting an all-Wallaby front row, the Brumbies were surprisingly shunted back in the scrum, conceding a total of six penalties at set-piece time. This provided the Rebels with a launchpad for an attempted, but ultimately unsuccessful, comeback.
In response, the Brumbies turned to their maul – one of their traditional strengths – and it paid off with both Andy Muirhead and Joe Powell able to score after Rebels players were sucked out of the defensive line.
One of the pleasing aspects was the performance of Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio. The former Australia U20 star may have missed a few shots at goal, but was active in open play and made an excellent linebreak before passing on his outside to set up Tom Wright for the Brumbies’ fourth try.
At that stage, it was all one-way traffic but two quickfire tries from Jordan Uelese – who was driven over by a massive team maul – and captain Dane Haylett-Petty got the Rebels right back into the contest, making it a four-point game with just under 15 minutes to play. To’omua slotted his third penalty to narrow the deficit to just a single point.
However, the decisive blow came in the 75th minute as the Brumbies finally got their scrum together and won a penalty in the Rebels’ 22. From the ensuing maul, replacement flank Will Miller went over for what turned out to be the winning try.
Brumbies – Tries: Andy Muirhead, Joe Powell, Folau Fainga’a, Tom Wright, Will Miller. Conversions: Noah Lolesio (3).
Rebels – Tries: Jordan Uelese, Dane Haylett-Petty. Conversions: Matt To’omua (2). Penalties: To’omua (2)
Brumbies – 15 Mark Hansen, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (c), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Will Miller, 21 Issak Fines, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Len Ikitau.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Michael Stolberg, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Subs: 16 Efitusi Maafu, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Trevor Hosea, 20 Esei Haangana, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Deegan.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images