Jesse Mogg of the Brumbies beats the tackle by Nick Phipps. Photo: Scott Barbour
ACT BRUMBIES 30 (Jesse Mogg, Clyde Rathbone, Ben Mowen, Robbie Coleman tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 penalties, 2 conversions) beat MELBROURNE REBELS 13 (Scott Higginbotham try; James O’Connor 2 penalties, conversion) at AAMI Park. Referee: James Leckie. Crowd: 12,092.
3 Jesse Mogg
2 Peter Kimlin
1 Ben Mowen
THE BONUS POINT
The Brumbies were determined to leave Melbourne with a four-try bonus point and a victory. They turned down penalty shots in the first half to go on the attack, but they lacked the clinical edge to get across the line in a sloppy opening. Jesse Mogg scored a great individual try and then set up Clyde Rathbone before Ben Mowen pounced on a loose ball and dashed 40 metres for the third. When Robbie Coleman finished off an attacking raid, the bonus point was secured much to the relief of Jake White. A lack of bonus points has cost Brumbies teams of the past a spot in the finals. But the new era is intent on not letting that happen.
The Rebels controlled the play for the first four minutes after Jesse Mogg fumbled the ball on his own 22 metre line. But a brutal Matt Toomua tackle on Kurtley Beale knocked the ball free and the Brumbies counter-attacked. A flying Mogg got the ball on the sideline, booted the ball ahead and beat Test players James O’Connor and Nick Phipps in a foot race. It was his third try of the season. The fullback then got the Brumbies back in the game before half-time, bursting up the middle when nothing was happening. His break led to Clyde Rathbone scoring in the corner. Mogg was contemplating leaving Canberra two years ago before coach Jake White spotted him playing for Wests in the capital’s premier division. Now he’s the fastest player in the Brumbies’ squad and has played almost every game since making his debut.
The Brumbies boast a talented back row in David Pocock, Ben Mowen and Peter Kimlin, but it was the Rebels who won the battle at the ruck in the first half. The Brumbies were ill-disciplined and gave away too many penalties within range for James O’Connor to kick the Rebels into a lead. The visitors were lucky not to lose a player to the sin bin as they were continually penalised at the breakdown. It allowed the Rebels to dominate possession and territory for the first half and the Brumbies were constantly be on the back foot.
With James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale pulling the strings, everything suggests the Rebels will be more than competitive this season. They dominated the Brumbies in the opening exchanges and had the visitors stumbling backwards for most of the first half. O’Connor has been plagued by injuries for the past 12 months and hasn’t been able to slot into his new Melbourne surrounds. The only problem is O’Connor left the field after putting his body on the line stopping a barnstorming Clyde Rathbone and Beale dislocated his shoulder early in the second half.
Is it a good time or bad time to have a bye after just two weeks of the Super Rugby season? The Brumbies will only look at it as a positive, but they may lose some of the momentum they gained with back-to-back wins. There’s no doubt the back line is still trying to click and it will take a while to get used to the referees’ interpretations at the breakdown. After the bye, the Brumbies take on arch rivals the NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium on March 9. A win in that contest will set them up for a trip to South Africa and give them a handy lead in the Australian conference. But only time will tell if having a week off halts their momentum.