The Brumbies are off to a winning start in Super Rugby AU with a tense 31-23 win over the Melbourne Rebels in front of a sell-out crowd in Canberra.
The Brumbies looked like they would run away with the game with a 24-6 lead early in the second half before the Rebels mounted a late comeback to make it 24-23 late in the game but a late converted Will Miller try sealed the 8-point win.
The Brumbies had been touted as favourites for the tournament but didn’t have it all their own way in the 5 tries to 2 bonus point win. Their scrum came under huge pressure with multiple penalties going against them to allow the Rebels back into the game.
The Rebels Wallaby laden backline took well into the second half to get some ball and looked good when they did so and almost pulled of a miraculous win but came up short in the end.
The Brumbies showed no signs of early rust with a try in just the 3rd minute after back-to-back penalties allowed them to set up in the Rebels 22. A well worked lineout move saw Folau Fainga’a with a brilliant inside pass to Andy Muirhead, sporting an impressive moustache, and he sliced through the gap to score.
The Rebels didn’t take long to get on the board with a penalty goal to Matt Toomua in his 100th Super Rugby match after it was their turn to receive back-to-back penalties from Angus Gardner.
The Brumbies scrum was coming under tight scrutiny from Gardner and were on the receiving end of multiple penalties for infringing and put themselves under pressure with the possibility of a whistle replacement required at half time after 11 in the opening 25 minutes.
On the back of those penalties, Toomua landed his second penalty to reduce the margin to 1 but the Brumbies hit back with their second try just 3 minutes later. After taking matters into their own hands with another rolling maul, it was Joe Powell who got the ball down on the line to score.
With half time looming, the Brumbies rolled up their sleeves and kept it tight after another penalty got them into the Rebels 22. Some great work from Powell and Irae Simone had the Rebels on the backfoot and Fainga’a hit the ball on a nice angle from close range for a non-rolling maul try and the Brumbies 3rd try of the night. Lolesio’s conversion gave the Brumbies a handy lead of 19-6 at the break.
The Rebels tactic of high balls continued early in the second half after some success in the first-half but the Brumbies picked it off easily with Mack Hansen slowly gaining confidence after a shaky start.
Noah Lolesio was attacking the line well and found a gap in the Rebels defensive line and with Tom Wright in support and a two on one, Lolesio hit Wright to outrun the defence for the Brumbies 4th try of the night.
It might have taken about 55 minutes for the Rebels to finally string together some good passages of play, but with Koroibete shaking off the ice and getting involved in numerous phases to get his side on the front foot. They went close to scoring but were held up over the line to give the Brumbies a goal line drop put under the new law variations.
But another penalty to the Rebels gave them a chance to launch an attack and gave the Brumbies a dose of their own medicine with a rolling maul try of their own to Jordan Uelese and give his side a sniff with an 11-point deficit with 20 minutes remaining.
With all the momentum now with the Rebels and their Wallaby laden backline getting their hands on the ball more and making inroads on the Brumbies defence. With the Brumbies on the backfoot, the Rebels had the overlap and Dane Haylett-Petty scored to reduce the margin further to make a game of it at 24-20 after Toomua’s conversion.
Another Toomua penalty following a scrum infringement from the Brumbies made it a 1-point game with 10 minutes to go with penalty count mounting against the Brumbies.
The Brumbies finally got into Rebels 22 for about the first time since Wright’s try early in the second half but their execution let them down with another penalty with the line beckoning.
But a poor Rebels throw saw the Brumbies get a scrum that earnt them a penalty. With the lessons of the Highlanders game, Lolesio kicked to the line and from the resulting lineout, Will Miller came up with an important try and Lolesio’s conversion put the game to bed at 31-23.
The Game Changer
The Rebels looked out of it at 24-6 early in the second half but a raft of changes and back-to-back tries got them back in the game, but a late converted Will Miller try sealed the Brumbies win.
The G&GR MOTM
Noah Lolesio – Is starting to look better and gaining confidence as the year has gone on. Hopefully Dave Rennie has him in the mix at Wallabies level whenever Tests come back.
The Brumbies Wallabies front row contingent of James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a and Allan Alaalatoa had a rough night at the office with multiple penalties against them at scrum time but looked better in open play.
For the Rebels, Marika Koroibete had a quiet first half but looked better in the second half when he finally got his hands on the ball and that seemed to lift his team including Matt Toomua and Dane Haylett-Petty.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Muirhead, Powell, Fainga’a, Wright, Miller
Conversions: Lolesio 3
Tries: Uelese, Haylett-Petty
Conversions: Toomua 2
Penalties: Toomua 3