The ACT Brumbies continued their perfect start to the Super Rugby season on Friday night, beating the Western Force in an Australian derby arm-wrestle in Perth to kick-start a three-game road trip.
Brumbies down Force in Perth
The Brumbies downed the Force but didn't come away with a crucial bonus point on the road winning 31-14.
|Tries||Morahan (1), Tapuai (1)||Moore (1), Toomua (1), Tomane (1), Mann-Rea (1)|
|Conversions||Lance (1/1), Grant (1/1)||Lealiifano (4/4)|
|Penalty Goals||Lealiifano (1/1)|
The Brumbies withstood a second-half fightback and were left bloodied and bruised after the 31-14 win.
It's just the second time in 11 years that the Brumbies have started their season with three consecutive wins, and they now face a two-game trip to South Africa to play the Cape Town Stormers and Free State Cheetahs.
The scoreline against the Force didn't reflect the ferocity of the game, with David Pocock left with a broken nose and plenty of players feeling the pinch of a brutal encounter.
The Brumbies scored four tries to two and were always in front, but the Force game them plenty of nervous moments in the second half as they charged back into the contest.
"It was a very physical game, we'll be pretty sore tomorrow," said Brumbies captain Stephen Moore.
"The Force were hard around the contact area so we're happy to get that win in the first game of a three-game tour.
"We couldn't put the points on the board with our field position, but we were pretty patient. The contact was hotly contested and we knew it would be like that.
"The Force are very good at the breakdown, they always make have an impact there so we're happy to get away with the win."
Brumbies reserve lock Tom Staniforth was impressive in his first game in 701 days.
Canberra junior Staniforth made his debut in April 2014 but has been patiently waiting ever since for his second game.
He didn't let the Brumbies down in his recall, setting up a crucial second-half try, then effecting a lineout steal when the Brumbies were under pressure before stripping Force captain Matt Hodgson of the ball.
"The Force were really hard tonight, they really came out with some good intensity and then held the ball really well," said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
"Happy with the way [we] won. I think the boys will be disappointed in a few areas ... for the most part we attacked pretty well. We missed some opportunities down the edges, but we did well for the most part."
The Brumbies dominated the first 15 minutes, but failed to take advantage until referee Andrew Lees sent Force prop Pek Cowan to the sin bin for repeated team infringements.
From the next play the Brumbies set up a rolling maul and had too much power for the Force pack, co-captain Stephen Moore holding onto the ball to crash down for the opening try.
The Brumbies extended their lead when Scott Fardy offloaded to a flying Matt Toomua, who only had to fall over the line to extend the lead to 17-0.
But the game started to turn when the Brumbies gave away penalties in their defensive zone and scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli was controversially sent to the sin bin for kicking the ball away after the referee blew the whistle.
Skippers Stephen Moore and Matt Hodgson were locked in a war of words and push and shove as the Force peppered the Brumbies' line.
The weight of possession paid off for the home team, with Jono Lance put on a superb step and hit a flying Luke Morahan to breathe life into the game.
The Brumbies held a 17-7 lead at the break, but it was far from convincing for the team considered a title contender.
The game turned into an arm-wrestle after half-time, with the Brumbies trying to flex their muscles but running into a brick wall led by Force captain Matt Hodgson.
The Brumbies finally capitalised on their dominance thanks to Staniforth.
Staniforth threw a beautiful pass to Sam Carter, who ran 20-odd metres and from the ensuing play winger Joseph Tomane beat two tacklers and carried another three over the line for a decisive try.
It should have put the Brumbies plenty clear, but the Force refused to back down on home turf.
Reserve flyhalf Peter Grant put a grubber down the right sideline, with Morahan winning the race and then beautifully drawing the defenders and finding Ben Tapuai, who ran across the line untouched.
But the Brumbies withstood the onslaught and clinched their win after the siren with hooker Josh Mann-Rea scoring a try from a rolling maul.
Half of the Brumbies' squad will fly to South Africa on Saturday night with the rest joining them on Sunday.
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 31 (Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, Joseph Tomane, Josh Mann-Rea tries; Christian Lealiifano pen, 4 cos) bt WESTERN FORCE 14 (Luke Morahan, Ben Tapuai tries; Jono Lance, Peter Grant cons) in Perth on Friday night. Referee: Andrew Lees.