Welcome to the ACT Brumbies: version 2016. And it looks the goods.
The Brumbies blasted their way into the Super Rugby season with a thumping 52-10 win against the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday night.
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Brumbies outmuscle Hurricanes 52-10
Brumbies thrash Hurricanes 52-10 in captain Stephen Moore's 150th Super Rugby game.
The seven-tries-to-one rout was the perfect way to start a season that many believe will be the Brumbies' best chance to win a championship.
And the best part was the way they did it — flick passes, trick moves, slick back-line play, forward domination and one of the most exciting games at Canberra Stadium in recent memory.
The Brumbies turned it on for the first game with some outstanding rugby, scoring seven tries in the season-opener for the first time in the club's history.
The blistering pace set by a title contender was too much for the Hurricanes to handle, with the Brumbies controlling all but the first eight minutes of the game.
|Tries||Kuridrani (1), Cubelli (1), Pocock (1), Fardy (1), Moore (1), Mann-Rea (1), Carter (1)||Lauampe (1)|
|Conversions||Lealiifano (7/7)||Barrett (1/1)|
|Penalty Goals||Lealiifano (1/2)||Barrett (1/2)|
Hookers Stephen Moore, man of the match in his 150th Super Rugby match, and Josh Mann-Rea even got in open space as the Hurricanes fell apart.
The Brumbies continually turned down shots at goal to go for the kill, and it paid off as they ran wild in an almost complete performance.
Tevita Kuridrani opened the scoring and started an avalanche of Brumbies attack, with Tomas Cubelli, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Moore, Mann-Rea and Sam Carter all joining the party.
It was sweet revenge for their semi-final loss to the Hurricanes last season and an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.
But, it was only round one, and the Hurricanes are blending a new side together after the departure of some of their most experienced stars.
The Brumbies will face a huge early season test when they play arch-rivals the NSW Waratahs on Friday night, and they've only won one of the past six games between the teams.
"It was a good start to the season, we've been building for this for a while," said coach Stephen Larkham.
"We said get through this game and then we'll find our momentum in the competition. It was pretty comprehensive from the boys tonight - some things we have to work on but very pleasing.
"There were times where the game was clean and times when it was messy ... there was some precision out there and a bit of spark when the ball was bouncing around."
The 13,467-strong crowd was in raptures for most of the match, and Brumbies officials are hoping that number grows to more than 20,000 fans for the Waratahs derby.
Co-captain Christian Lealiifano added: "It was a long-time coming, all the boys were over pre-season and to put in a performance like that in front of our home fans, I'm really proud and it's something to build on.
"We're just trying to get the forwards up the middle to free up our backs to be a bit more potent with our back row. The Hurricanes are a quality outfit, so we're quite chuffed with that."
The Brumbies didn't touch the ball in the first eight minutes, scrambling in defence in a desperate bid to protect their line.
But from the moment they got possession they looked like the stronger team and a 3-3 scoreline quickly developed into a Brumbies landslide.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd lamented his team's turnovers. "Every time we turned the ball over they seemed to score points," he said.
"We couldn't get our game going basically because we were unable to get a good steady flow of quality ball."
Kuridrani went into the game with a heavy heart after Cyclone Winston ripped through his home nation of Fiji, but the first try of the Brumbies' season gave his village something to smile about when he burrowed over from the base of a ruck.
The Brumbies raised $13,500 to send to Fiji to help those affected by the cyclone.
Next to score was crafty Argentinian scrumhalf Cubelli, who ducked under a tackle close to the line to notch his first try in his Super Rugby debut.
A moment of brilliance followed just before half-time when Moore combined with Ita Vaea and Pocock for a sneaky move from a lineout.
The ball went to the front to Vaea who threw a back-handed flick to Moore, who then passed back on the inside to a flying Pocock who broke Hurricanes hearts.
The only black mark against the Brumbies was their breakdown work, which led to Matt Toomua and Pocock being sin-binned at different stages of the second half for repeated infringements.
The new and improved Brumbies led 24-3 at half-time and a suspected knee injury to lock Rory Arnold didn't halt their charge after the break.
Prop Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin got on for his debut and moments later Scott Fardy scored to inflict more pain on the visitors.
A poor kick from Toomua to a flying Nehe Milner-Skudder led to the Hurricanes' first try to Ngani Laumape, but it had no affect on the outcome of the match.
Moore, Mann-Rea and Carter scored to finish out the match and set the season up perfectly.
"It was a good start, we worked on a few things in the off-season and it was good to see them come out," Carter said.
"We've been working really hard on our fitness, so having guys backing up gives us an opportunity to run out of our own half."
"But we've got a huge game coming up in the Waratahs and we haven't beaten them in a couple of years."
ACT BRUMBIES 52 (Tevita Kuridrani, Tomas Cubelli, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Stephen Moore, Josh Mann-Rea, Sam Carter tries; Christian Lealiifano pen, 6 cons) bt WELLINGTON HURRICANES 10 (Ngani Laumape try; Beauden Barrett pen, con) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referee: Andrew Lees. Crowd: 13,467.