Brumbies 37 Rebels 10
Matt Toomua scores for the Brumbies in Saturday night's win over the Melbourne Rebels. Photo: Getty Images
The ACT Brumbies have jolted some life back into their Super Rugby title dreams, thumping the Melbourne Rebels to end a two-game losing streak and stay in the hunt for Australia's guaranteed finals berth.
The Brumbies put two horrible weeks in South Africa behind them, securing a four-try bonus point inside the first 30 minutes of the match and romping to a 37-10 triumph at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Super Rugby round 16: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels
Pat McCabe comes into score. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Toomua (2min, 15min), McCabe (12min), Sio (29min), Carter (42min), Power (79min)||Tries||6||Tries||1||Players||Higginbotham (69min)|
|Players||Lealiifano 2/6 (33%)||Conversions||2||Conversions||1||Players||Woodward 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Lealiifano 1/1 (100%)||Penalty goals||1||Penalty goals||1||Players||Woodward 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Drop goals||0||Drop goals||0||Players|
It was a perfectly-timed shot in the arm for the Brumbies, who move to fourth on the ladder and are chasing the NSW Waratahs for top spot in the Australian conference with just two games left in their season.
It was also a timely boost for individuals with Wallabies ambitions, scrumhalf Nic White enjoying an outstanding game to almost play himself into the Test starting XV with coach Ewen McKenzie watching from the stands.
The Brumbies are three points behind the Waratahs, with NSW keeping their lead after beating two-time defending champions, the Waikato Chiefs, 33-17 to end a four-year New Zealand hoodoo on Saturday.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen, who was sporting a massive black eye and bruised sternum after the game, said the win set up a "finals clash" with the Waratahs at ANZ Stadium on June 28.
"It certainly does get us back on track ... the pathway home for us is no different at all," Mowen said.
"It will be a pretty special game in Sydney and I know the guys are excited about it already. When we come back we've got a final against the Tahs which is going to be amazing."
Brumbies halves White and Matt Toomua earned high praise for a dominant display, almost cementing their place in the Wallabies side for the first Test against France next weekend.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie was in the stands watching as the Brumbies turned it on in one of their best performances of the year.
Incumbent Test captain Mowen was not selected in the series against France after his decision to leave Australia at the end of the year, opening the door for Brumbies teammate Stephen Moore to take over the Wallabies' leadership duties.
"It was a gutsy effort and we needed five points with the Waratahs winning, but it keeps us in the hunt going into the June break," Moore said.
"It's an exciting time of year and it always is an honour when you get the chance to play for your country."
The Brumbies have two games remaining in the season while the Waratahs have three.
The Brumbies' win against the Rebels was a remarkable turnaround in attitude, execution and desperation after they lost both games on their tour of South Africa.
Toomua got a double while Pat McCabe, Scott Sio, Sam Carter and Leon Power all got across the line to score tries in a 27-point romp.
It took the Brumbies just three minutes to score the opening try with Toomua showing his power to scamper over in the corner.
The Rebels couldn't withstand the onslaught as the Brumbies launched a redemption mission and put the result beyond doubt before half-time with a bonus-point try to prop Sio.
The Rebels failed to put a dent in the Brumbies' defensive line until the 69th minute when skipper Scott Higginbotham scored their only try of the match.
Fullback Jason Woodward becoming the highest point-scorer in the Rebels' history was about one of the only highlights of the match as he slotted a penalty and conversion to take his tally beyond 200.
Only time will tell if the Brumbies have found their best form too late as they chase the right to host a home final.
Their attack scored four tires in the first 30 minutes of the game, but it was their defence which showed the most improvement after leaking 71 points in the previous two games.
The Brumbies have now won six games in a row at Canberra Stadium, and nine of their past 10 matches in the capital.
"We were probably a little bit loose in the last couple of weeks so we went back to basics and did things we've done well over the last couple of years ... we learnt some lessons in the last couple of weeks," said director of rugby Laurie Fisher.
"It's about momentum and confidence ... we don't have a game for the next three weeks but we take a lot of confidence knowing that the game we've built over the last three years, when we deliver that we're an extremely hard side to knock over.
"From our point of view we've always been on the radar, I can't speak for other teams think about us and I probably don't care that much. But I know we've got a side that can go all the way in the competition."
The Brumbies' made four changes to their roster after back-to-back losses for the first time in three years. They injected hard-running backs Pat McCabe and Clyde Rathbone to join Fotu Auelua and Ruan Smith.
The selection change proved a masterstroke in the 14th minute, with Rathbone busting through the Rebels' defence then off-loading to McCabe to help the Brumbies open up a nine-point lead.
It was McCabe's first start at fullback since 2011 and propelled him closer to a Wallabies selection for the three-Test series against France.
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 37 (Matt Toomua 2, Pat McCabe, Scott Sio, Sam Carter, Leon Power tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 conversions, penalty) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 10 (Scott Higginbotham try; Jason Woodward conversion, penalty) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Referee: Steve Walsh. Crowd: 11,071.