Brumbies grind down Rebels

Date published: February 28 2015

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The Brumbies bounced back from last week in a gruelling battle with the Rebels in Melbourne, triumphing 20-15 despite a late scare.

Melbourne experienced all the seasons as a warm afteroon turned to black clouds and an inevitable downpour, with the power of each side's respective pack playing a major role as conditions worsened.

In the end the visitors outscored their hosts by two tries to nil, with openside Jarrad Butler providing a score and an assist, but had to hold off a late charge from the Rebels with time up on the clock.

The Rebels' bright start to the season has in part been down to their tenacious play around the park, physically intimidating their opponents and getting their forwards rumbling in the right direction.

Where the issue has been is a lack of composure when on the attack in the opposition 22 and it showed again on Saturday with the lack of an end product, forcing the Rebels to rely on the boot of Harris. Their effort level however couldn't be faulted.

Overall however this was a controlled performance from the Brumbies, with the tireless efforts of their pack – notably Butler and Rory Arnold – securing a hard-earned victory with that extra bit of experience.

Mike Harris started off with an uncharacteristic miss given his early-season kicking form has been so stellar, before the full-back and Christian Leali'ifano traded penalties.

A well-worked lineout move generated the game's first try, with Butler surging off the back of a rolling maul and delivering a flat pass to Tevita Kuridrani for the score.

Steve Walsh wasn't exactly in favour with the crowd as TV replays suggested the ball went forward, with their frustrations growing even more after Tom English had a score called back for a forward pass.

The home side's penalty count was beginning to rise, Leali'ifano punishing them with a second penalty, but with offences at the scrum being picked up by both sides Harris was handed a chance to add another three points and delivered to leave the Rebels trailing by seven at the break.

Neither team's execution was near the top level as the rain started to hamper their handling.

A third Harris penalty after Nic White strayed offside closed the gap further following a sustained period of pressure for the hosts, although that was slim reward for a long period of possession attacking the Brumbies 22.

The Brumbies pack though was growing stronger with every passing minute, particularly after they gained valuable territory inside the Rebels 22 with a lineout.

Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham saw yellow for collapsing the maul and after the Brumbies went back to the corner, Butler got the ball down as the Brumbies crashed over the line.

Harris chalked back another three points with his fourth penalty before the Brumbies were denied a second try from a maul, Butler this time losing the ball forward inches from the line in the slippery conditions.

Great commitment from the Rebels kept them in the hunt and with Sam Carter's yellow card five minutes from time they had the chance to get within losing bonus point territory thanks to the boot of Harris, who delivered to set up a tense finish.

White's long-range effort sensibly wound down the clock but there was late drama as the Rebels won a scrum penalty with time up. There was no time for the lineout so the Rebels ran it, to the rousing noise of their fans, before winning another penalty in the 22 short of the posts. 

It just wasn't to be though for the home side as Sean McMahon knocked on, signalling a tough loss for the Rebels as the Brumbies extended their lead at the top of the Australian Conference.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Pens: Harris 5
Yellow Card: Higginbotham

For Brumbies:

Tries: Kuridrani, Butler

Cons: Leali'ifano 2

Pens: Leali'ifano 2
Yellow Card: Carter

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu. 

Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Jesse Mogg.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)

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