Brumbies 24 Reds 6
THE ACT Brumbies believe they're better equipped to handle pressure in year two of the Jake White era and showed they had ''matured'' after last-year's meltdown by beating the Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
The Brumbies got their season off to a perfect start with a 24-6 victory over the Reds at Canberra Stadium.
The only downside was Henry Speight being taken to hospital after he left the field in agony in the second half with what appeared to be a rib injury.
It was a match built up as a clash between the top two teams in Australia with the opposing coaches trading jibes all week.
But the pain of being knocked out of the finals with a final-round choke last season spurred the Brumbies on to stake their claim to be Australia's No.1 team.
In a gutsy and grinding performance, Jesse Mogg scored the only two tries of the match.
The Reds were undermanned with leaders James Horwill and Will Genia on the sideline with injuries.
But Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said the tight victory would provide a solid building block "to get to where we want to be".
The Brumbies were on the verge of a drought-breaking finals appearance last year before they stumbled at the last hurdle and lost to the Auckland Blues at home in a heart-breaking end to their season.
"I know the team has matured a lot, just the way we approach training and prepare around games," Mowen said.
"It was the first time we were back at Canberra Stadium after that pretty disappointing [performance against the Blues].
"[Beating the Reds] doesn't wipe [that losing feeling] out and I don't think you want it to. You want to use it as a reference point that if you slacken off, you get your arse handed to you.
"It was a huge, costly lesson last year, but it's set this group up."
The Brumbies had started to become the Reds bunnies in the past two seasons.
After losing just once to the Queenslanders in the first 15 years of Super Rugby, the Brumbies had secured just one win in the past four matches between the teams.
ACT coach White admitted he was concerned and could sense "deja vu" in the second half when his team missed crucial penalty attempts. But instead of crumbling, the Brumbies continued to surge and secured the 18-point win when Mogg scored his second try in the last minute of the match.
The passion and fierce rivalry spilled on to the field with four scuffles in the first half before the referee warned both captains.
The Brumbies missed five penalty shots and a conversion but still recorded a solid victory.
"You want to make sure you get off to a winning start," White said.
"We've been speaking about if you want an opportunity you have to use it and stake a claim.
"At half-time I was a bit concerned there was going to be a bit of dé´jà vu because we missed a couple of kicks … but everything we spoke about at half-time we got some just reward for."
White praised marquee Brumbies recruit Pocock for almost sealing the game with a crucial turnover in the 71st minute. The Brumbies' attention will now turn to taking on the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday night.
ACT BRUMBIES 24 (Jesse Mogg 2 tries Ian Prior con Mogg 2, Nic White 2 pens) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 6 (Michael Harris 2 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Andrew Lees. Crowd: 17,058.