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Brumbies show how Reds have fallen

Brumbies 24 Reds 6

Digby Ioane of the Reds is tackled by Clyde Rathbone of the Brumbies.

Digby Ioane of the Reds is tackled by Clyde Rathbone of the Brumbies. Photo: Getty Images

THE ACT Brumbies have set the tone for a blockbuster battle to be the best team in the Australian conference by toppling the Queensland Reds in the opening round of the Super Rugby season on Saturday night.

In a fierce, hard-nosed and gritty contest, the Brumbies scored a 24-6 win at Canberra Stadium.

Brumbies vs the Reds. Click for more photos

Brumbies v Reds

The Brumbies come up against the Reds at Canberra Stadium to kick off the Super Rugby season. Photo: Jay Cronan

It ended the Reds' recent dominance of the Brumbies and will help ease the pain of last season, when the ACT choked while on the cusp of a finals appearance.

The Reds have been the best team in Australia for the past two years and won their inaugural title in 2011. But with Jake White's Brumbies a year wiser and the NSW Waratahs expected to launch a revival under new coach Michael Cheika, the battle for the guaranteed Australian spot in the play-offs will be brutal.

This game was all about toughing it out. Neither defence wanted to give way and while the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force played an enterprising game on Friday night, there were only two tries in the Brumbies-Reds derby.

Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies runs the ball.

Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies runs the ball. Photo: Getty Images

Jesse Mogg's first-half try from a Nic White kick opened the scoring in the first 20 minutes and neither defence leaked again until Mogg scored his second on the buzzer for an 18-point win. ''We're happy - a win's important at this stage and they outplayed us twice last year and we weren't happy with that,'' Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. ''We're happy with that as a base. That's OK for a base, but for where we want to go, that's not good enough.''

Eight days after his boxing debut, Quade Cooper was quiet until the closing stages of the match and - unlike his first-round knockout in the ring - barely threw a punch at the Brumbies' defence. But as much as the match was about securing a crucial result, the biggest cheer was reserved for Clyde Rathbone. The 31-year-old led the Brumbies on to the field for an emotional return after three years out of the game.

The former Wallabies winger had to retire in 2009 because of constant injuries and battled depression when his career ended. He was overweight and contemplated suicide, but was transformed when he got his life back on track.

But with the contest between Liam Gill and David Pocock dominating the match and the play going to the opposite wing, Rathbone spent most of his time trying to stay warm in a brisk Canberra breeze.

Masterminds Jake White and Ewen McKenzie played mind games all week to build up a war between the two rivals and the mental battle continued before kick-off.

The Brumbies won the toss 40 minutes before the start of the game but decided to wait another 20 minutes before telling the Reds whether they would kick off and which way they would run.

There was plenty of niggle and feeling between what many believe will be Australia's top two teams this season. Bouts of pushing and shoving broke out four times in the first half but there were no serious altercations.

It didn't distract the visitors. The Reds opened the scoring when Mike Harris drained a 49-metre penalty in the opening minutes.

The Brumbies had to wait eight minutes to get their first penalty and immediately went on the attack.

Brumbies halfback Nic White put a kick through from 22 metres out and fullback Mogg scored his team's first try of the season.

A White penalty goal edged the Brumbies to an 8-6 lead at half-time.

The Reds got few chances to put the Brumbies under pressure after the break and Cooper was unable to put his stamp on the game.

White and Mogg nailed second-half penalties and Mogg scored a try on the buzzer to ensure the Brumbies got their campaign off to a winning start.


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