The Brumbies beat the Rebels 30-22 in Melbourne on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The visitors proved themselves worthy Australian conference leaders with a convincing victory to extend their advantage to four log points over the Waratahs, who still have to play on Saturday.
Both teams were up for it from the start, but endless penalties turned this match into a stop-start encounter. That, however, didn't prevent the teams from scoring a combined eight tries as the momentum swung back and forth, and back again.
While the goal-kicking of both flyhalves was less than impressive, with Jack Debreczeni failing to land three attempts off the tee and Christian Leali'ifano five. But the Brumbies No 10 marshalled his team's attack better and finished with a 10-point haul.
The Rebels withstood a 24-phase Brumbies attack on their tryline, before transgressing at the breakdown, which resulted in a three-pointer from Leafi'ifano. The hosts came storming back when Debreczeni flummoxed the Brumbies defence with two dummy passes to set up wing Cam Crawford for the first try of the match.
The lead then exchanged hands twice as first flank David Pocock crossed from the back of a driving maul for the Brumbies before Debreczeni slotted a penalty to put the Rebels back in the driving seat.
The Brumbies were then handed a significant blow on the half-hour mark when lock Sam Carter was ruled out of the rest of the match after failing a concussion test. But no sooner did he lose his second-row partner and towering lock Rory Arnold breached the Rebels defence with a decent stretch of the arm. Leali'ifano scored their third try a minute later, but failed to convert on both occasions.
There was an opportunity for the Rebels to narrow the deficit on the stroke of half-time, but captain Nic Stirzaker turned down the points on offer, taking a quick tap instead and it proved costly as they knocked on 3m out.
The concession of penalties didn't stop in the second half, but it was a more open half than the first.
The Rebels started brightly, effecting a turnover in the Brumbies' half from the restart. They stretched the defence from side to side, before centre Reece Hodge ran onto a skip pass in acres of space to score.
And while his effort was cancelled out by one from Scott Fardy for the Brumbies, the Rebels continued to pressure the visitors. Their persistence paid off in the 52nd minute when wing Sefa Naivalu scored an unconverted try to make it 25-22.
Debreczeni missed a chance to draw level, with yet another unsuccessful penalty, before the Brumbies turned to their bench to close the game out.
Nigel Ah Wong made the game safe for the Brumbies in the 70th minute, after they kept the ball close on the left-hand side of the field to draw the Rebels defenders, before spreading it wide through Mike Harris, who put Ah Wong away.
Rebels – Tries: Cam Crawford, Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (2). Penalty: Debreczeni.
Brumbies – Tries: David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Christian Leali'ifano, Scott Fardy, Nigel Ah Wong. Conversion: Leali'ifano. Penalty: Leali'ifano.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Colby Fainga’a, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Tom English, 23 Kotaro Matsushima.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Leali'ifano (c), 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 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 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images