Christian Lealiifano is still trying to find his kicking boots after having off-season ankle surgery. The Brumbies sharpshooter got a last-minute tune up from WAllabies kicking coach Damien Hill on Friday, but he still struggled to find his radar in the game against the Rebels. Lealiifano's kicking percentage is well down on his efforts last year. Lealiifano finished the night with three from seven attempts in penalties and conversions. It didn't cost the Brumbies the match. But in tight matches it could prove instrumental. Brumbies teammate Nic White has been in good form, but the Brumbies stuck with Lealiifano. His goalkicking helped him cement a spot in the Wallabies starting side this year. But the dilemma Test coach Ewen McKenzie faces is who he will give the kicking duties to for the three-game series against France, starting in Brisbane next week. Lealiifano, White, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley have all been kicking this year. Most of their shots have been well below standard. Goalkicking can be crucial in Test matches and Beale and Lealiifano have done the job before. But it might be White's kicking prowess that elevates him to the Wallabies No9 jersey for the opening Test on Saturday night.
BASH AND CRASH INSTEAD OF KICKING
Clyde Rathbone admitted he wasn't called into the Brumbies' starting XV for his kicking expertise. Neither was Pat McCabe. Both are known for their uncompromising and tough running game style and it was evident almost immediately. The Brumbies were willing to run the ball from inside their own half and had a better mix of kicking for territory and taking chances. They will have to continue to juggle both styles and can't take too many risks against stronger opponents. In their previous game at Canberra Stadium against the Durban Sharks, there were 93 kicks in general play. The Brumbies ran for just 226 metres in that game. In a stark contrast, the Brumbies had already amassed more than 300 metres in the first 30 minutes against the Rebels. It helped the players build confidence as they controlled the game and showed patience that was lacking when they were kicking possession away. Rathbone was playing his first Super Rugby game since the grand final last year and McCabe was in his first start at fullback since 2011. The pair combined to score the second try of the game with Rathbone offloading to McCabe. Rathbone put his body on the line, throwing himself into every contest as the veteran winger approached the game as if it would be his last. The Brumbies secured a four-try bonus point in the first half, just the third time the team had achieved four tries this season.
WHITE, TOOMUA: DON'T FORGET US
All the Wallabies selection talk has been about the NSW Waratahs' rockstar playmakers Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley. But Brumbies scrumhalf-flyhalf duo Nic White and Matt Toomua launched one last bid to stay together when they join the Test squad on Sunday. White almost played his way into the Wallabies starting side with an impressive performance against the Rebels, adding an excellent running game to his attacking weapons. With McKenzie watching in the crowd, Toomua scored two tries in the first 15 minutes of the clash against the Rebels, the second set up by some brilliant play from White. White saw an opportunity from the base of a ruck, scooted out and caught the Rebels' defence napping. He drew the fullback and then offloaded to Toomua, who ran the last 25 metres for the try. McKenzie is likely to split the pair up when they go into Test camp. McKenzie doesn't want to be handcuffed by positional play and values versatility. Toomua was named in the Wallabies squad as a centre, not a flyhalf. But the Brumbies' playmaker could still step into the role if required. Beale and Foley are the flyhalf options for the Wallabies and both have been instrumental in leading the NSW Waratahs to the top of the Australian conference. White is vying with incumbent Will Genia for the No9 jersey. White's game continues to grow while Genia is down on confidence as the Queensland Reds battle their way through a disappointing season. McKenzie will catch the same flight as the Brumbies to the Gold Coast on Sunday morning. Maybe the players can use the time in transit to convince the Test mentor they're ready for international action.
THE FINALS RACE
Three Australian teams, a handful of games and finals spots on the line. The Brumbies, NSW Waratahs and Western Force are locked in a threeway tussle for play-off berths. The Brumbies' bonus-point win against the Rebels keeps them alive in the battle to win Australia's guaranteed finals berth and the right to play at least one home game in the play-off series. The Waratahs hold a three-point advantage of the ladder and are second overall, the Brumbies move to third place and the Force slipped back down to sixth. The Brumbies play the Waratahs and the Force in their last two games of the year. But the Waratahs and Force will play three games each, giving them an extra chance to rise above the Brumbies. Australia could have three teams in the finals for the first time since the Super Rugby play-off format was overhauled in 2011. But it's more likely just two will make it through. Securing at least one home finals is a huge advantage in the championship race. The biggest hurdle for the Brumbies last year was having to play a final in South Africa and then the grand final in New Zealand in back to back weeks.
ATTACKING MOJO, FINALLY
The Brumbies looked a completely different team to the one that struggled on its two-game tour of South Africa. They were energetic, enthusiastic and found a new attacking force. With their finals hopes on the line, the Brumbies finally found an attacking groove and ran in four tries in the first 30 minutes of the match. Their defence was equally as impressive, holding the Rebels for most of the match and refusing to budge. It was just the third time this year the Brumbies had managed to secure a four-try bonus point. More importantly they regained winning confidence going into a three-week bye for the competition's international break. Matt Toomua scored a double while Pat McCabe, Scott Sio and Sam Carter all got across the line. The Brumbies mixed tactical kicking with a running game, but they were more willing to keep the ball in hand and chase tries instead of building into the game. They will have to continue to mix up their game in the run to the play-offs. The Brumbies have won their past six games at Canberra Stadium and nine of their past 10.Back to top
Great win, much needed by the Brumbies. They move into fourth spot on the Super Rugby ladder with a four-try bonus point the cherry on top. We take a break for the Wallabies' three-Test series against France. Had to find any faults to the Brumbies' game. Defence rock solid, scrum looked great, some brilliant work by the backs led expertly by Nic White, who will surely get a start against the French.
80: And there's the icing on the Brumbies' cake! Leon Power scoops the pass off his shoelaces before diving over in the corner. Looks like the TV coverage has dropped out, but lucky you're still getting all the action from the Canberra Times blog. Lealiifano lines up, but misses. Brumbies 37-10.
78: Is there anything Scott Fardy can't do? He started the worldwide beard-growing trend and now the lock is adding a kicking game to his repertoire, although his grubber did dribble into touch...
76: Big cheer for the Brumbies as they kick for the corner instead of taking the points from 40m out. Now they maul it forward from the lineout. They earn the penalty and kick for the lineout again. The Brumbies score more tries than any other Super Rugby team when they win possession at a lineout... #uselessfactsyouwishyouknew
72: Great tackle by Jesse Mogg! Jack Debreczeni looked all money to go over in the corner after the Rebels had a four-on-one break, but Mogg has done enough to force him to lose the ball forward...some spirited defence from the Brumbies with the game well and truly not in the balance.Back to top
Rousing round of applause for Steve Moore and Nic White as they come off! Have we just seen the Wallabies captain and No.9 both leave the field at the same time? You'd have to say yes...
69: Pat McCabe packs down in the 87th consecutive scrum at blindside flanker. Eventually we're away and Josh Holmes looks a certain try scorer before a crunching tackle by JP Smith. Or did he? The video ref says it was over! And Woodward adds the easy extras. Brumbies 32-10.
67: Packing down about our fifth scrum in a row, Brumbies getting close to a yellow card ikf they keep infringing as the Rebels are just 5m out from the Brumbies line. And Ben Alexander is sent from the field for a 10 minute rest after only just coming off the bench...
Seems everyone is concerned about Mowen's future income revenue streams...
Ben Mowens modelling career in doubt #BRUvREB— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) May 31, 2014
Holy toledo Ben Mowen! That's quite a shiner he's sporting on his left eye. Hopefully nothing more than a bit of bruising as he looks more like Rocky Balboa than his usual Biggles-esque demeanour... #heywhatoldchapBack to top
56: Massive cheer as the white rhino, Clyde Rathbone, heads to the showers after a typically bullocking showing on the wing. Hopefully it's not the last time we see him here at Canberra Stadium as this season will be his last. That brings Jesse Mogg on. Looks like he's gone to fullback, with McCabe switching to the left wing...
50: You don't see that everyday! Ben Mowen leaves the field and goes straight down the race with a cut under his eye. Until just now, he was the only Brumby to play every single minute of this season. Perfect time for a rest given the game is all but done and dusted...
White has really been sensational tonight. Recycled quick ball from the breakdown, taken some great options with the pass and has really added a dangerous running game to his bow tonight. Throw in that super boot and look out Will Genia...
42: What a mazy run by Nic White!gets about 40m and then looks wide for Toomua. White is really stamping a claim on that golden No.9 jersey and it's led to a Sam Carter try! Carter will join White in Wallabies camp next week, hopefully following in his father's footsteps on the path to playing for Australia. Lealiifano converts. Brumbies 32-3.
So we're back here at Canberra Stadium for the second half!Back to top