The Rebels produced a dominant second-half performance to claim a deserved 34-27 win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, just two log points separated these sides at the conclusion of the competition, but there is no doubt that the Rebels were the better side in this Australian season-opener.
Although the Melbourne-based side did trail by three points at half-time, they controlled proceedings with aplomb in the second half, managing to keep the Brumbies scoreless until the dying stages. But by then the match was as good as won.
The Brumbies had made an emphatic start to this encounter, with captain Christian Lealiifano slotting an early penalty, before Folau Fainga’a powered over the tryline from a strong drive to establish a 10-0 lead after 14 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Brumbies, they did lose star forward David Pocock to a head injury early on, while the Rebels would hit straight back through tries to Tom English and Jack Maddocks.
It continued to be a bit of a free-for-all as the defence of both sides left a lot to be desired, with the Brumbies scoring twice more in order to establish a tenuous three-point lead at the break.
Once again, though, the Brumbies failed to consolidate their ascendancy, with Anaru Rangi barging over soon after the restart as the Rebels enjoyed plenty of territory and possession in the third quarter.
At that point, the Brumbies were hanging on for dear life, but they fell seven points behind when Quade Cooper slotted a 70th-minute penalty, and Maddocks finished off a superb try soon after to seal the result.
Brumbies – Tries: Folau Fainga’a, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Sam Carter. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (2). Penalty: Lealiifano.
Rebels – Tries: Tom English, Jack Maddocks (2), Matt Philip, Anaru Rangi. Conversions: Quade Cooper (3). Penalties: Cooper (2).
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Peter Samu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetra Faulkner.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Esi Ha’angana, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Semisi Tupou.
Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images