The Brumbies will head into their Super Rugby bye week on a winning note as they beat the Rebels 30-22 in Melbourne on Friday.
Victory puts them six points ahead of the Rebels in the Australian group and four ahead of the Waratahs, who have two games in hand.
Their try-scorers were David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Christian Leali’ifano, Scott Fardy and Nigel Ah Wong, with Cam Crawford, Reece Hodge and Sefa Naivalu responding with tries for the home side, who leave with nothing.
The battle for top spot in Australia was on the line at AAMI Park and unsurprisingly it was a tight first-half that saw the Brumbies come out on top 20-10. The Waratahs would have been keen observers ahead of their own game, against the Bulls on Saturday at Allianz Park.
It was the Brumbies who hit the front early when Leali’ifano landed three points on six minutes, but the Rebels replied with a try three minutes later. It came from a lovely straightening of the line from fly-half Jack Debreczeni, who found Crawford on his shoulder for 3-7.
With the Brumbies missing so many backline stars their pack took it upon themselves to respond via the driving maul, Pocock at the tail soon after. Unfortunately they missed the difficult extras and Debreczeni made them pay by retaking the lead at 8-10 on 20 minutes.
The second quarter was all Brumbies though as a reach-out from second-row Arnold pushed his side back into the lead before Leali’ifano scored a controversial try, with centre James Dargaville’s assist appearing to have gone forward. The former was alive to the fact replays on the big screen could see his try chalked off and subsequently used the drop-kick to speed up his conversion. He missed but the try stood.
Ten points behind jogging out of the dressing room, the Rebels soon cut that gap down to just three when they crossed on 44 minutes, with a lovely team try ending with Colby Fainga’a finding centre Hodge on the right wing. With Debreczeni sending over the kick, it was game on.
Not to be outdone the Brumbies created a patient score of their own on 51 minutes, which ended with Fardy diving over to make it 25-17.
However, the Rebels wouldn’t go away and soon responded through wing Naivalu on the right. That cut the Brumbies’ lead back to three.
Debreczeni came close to levelling on the hour from 53 metres out, from an offside penalty, but was just wide so they remained behind.
The Brumbies knew that the next score would be crucial so when wing Ah Wong crossed on the right – after replacement prop Allan Alaalatoa was denied a try for an earlier fumble – the lead was two scores and the Brumbies held on for the seven minutes to win on the road.
Tries: Crawford, Hodge, Naivalu
Con: Debreczeni 2
Tries: Pocock, Arnold, Leali’ifano, Fardy, Ah Wong
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
Replacements: 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 James Dargaville, 11 Lausii Taliauli, 10 Christian Leali’ifano (cc), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Jordan Jackson-Hope
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Michael Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith