ACT Brumbies light up Lions to revive Super Rugby season

Christian Lealiifano was bracing for a reaction.

Not necessarily from his own ACT Brumbies, despite stinging criticism about their failure to win crucial moments that has left their Super Rugby campaign hanging by a thread.

Allan Alaalatoa and the Brumbies outpointed the Lions. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Allan Alaalatoa and the Brumbies outpointed the Lions. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Instead, he was expecting one from the Johannesburg Lions, a competition powerhouse enduring an up-and-down year which has them stuck in a logjam of teams hunting for a finals berth.

There is a fair chance Lealiifano didn't quite get the response he openly expected, but the one he preferred.

The Brumbies revived their season with a crucial 31-20 win over the Lions in their round nine clash at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

On a day upon which a mighty mare outran all comers to cruise to its 33rd consecutive win without so little as a sweat, the fleet-footed Brumbies were so often one step ahead of the hungry Lions.

They are 3-5 and finals are the last thing they will be talking about, but Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has no doubt when they do take their opportunities, they can beat anyone.

Toni Pulu breaks through Lions' defence. Photo Elesa Kurtz

Toni Pulu breaks through Lions' defence. Photo Elesa Kurtz

"Against quality opposition last week, everyone was excited that we were up 7-0, but we should have been up 24-0 to be honest," McKellar said.

"Tonight we saw a few more of those opportunities and took them when they presented instead of in review on Monday. I understand we've still got plenty to work on.

"We've just got build momentum, and take confidence and belief off the back of tonight and long periods of last week as well, and head to Cape Town ready to go."

Lealiifano is adamant one thing the Brumbies have never lacked this season is spark, despite a forgettable start to the season that has seen them drop key conference showdowns.

Look no further than Toni Pulu on the edge, barnstorming outside centre Tevita Kuridrani and rugby league convert Tom Wright for evidence of their strike power in the backline.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Then there is the likes of Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter and World Cup hopeful Folau Faingaa providing a swathe of class in the forward pack.

But to date the Brumbies have struggled to make things click. Be it injury, form or Wallabies rotations, something just hasn't quite hit the mark.

Their desperate attempts to reverse the trend went awry in the opening exchanges, almost as if to mistake intensity for ill-discipline.

Wright lasted little more than four minutes before being yellow-carded for lifting Lions skipper Malcolm Marx above the horizontal, and the visitors made the Brumbies pay moments later.

The visitors seemed bound to build on their impressive record of 13 wins from the past 15 games against Australian opposition when winger Aphiwe Dyantyi crossed to open the scoring.

Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies in action. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies in action. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Then livewire fullback Tom Banks revived the Brumbies' attack, splitting the Lions' line to lay the platform for a Lachie McCaffrey try.

Then it was Pulu streaming down the sideline to score, and Kuridrani diving over on the cusp of half-time to extend the margin.

Such is the narrative of the Brumbies this season, their blistering attack to close out one half was answered by a frustrating start to the next.

The Brumbies are among the worst in Super Rugby for conceding tries in the 20 minutes immediately after half-time, and the Lions cashed in through flyhalf Elton Jantjies to cut the margin to four.

Things looked as though they might get worse when Scott Sio and McCaffrey (aggravated medial cruciate ligament injury) came from the field soon after.

Lachlan McCaffrey came off with a niggling injury but should be fit to tour. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

Lachlan McCaffrey came off with a niggling injury but should be fit to tour. Photo: AAP Image/Rohan Thomson.

But the hosts worked their way off the ropes and threw punches in bunches - Banks and Wright scored to ultimately secure the victory.

"You actually forget how young Wrighty is, because he is just a mature bloke for someone of his age. [The sin-bin] didn't rattle him at all," McKellar said.

"He'll take a lot of confidence out of tonight, he is a point of difference player and that's why we selected him. He's got a lot of good moments ahead of him in Super Rugby."

AT A GLANCE

Super Rugby round nine: ACT BRUMBIES 31 (McCaffrey, Pulu, Banks, Wright tries; Lealiifano 3 cons) bt JOHANNESBURG LIONS 20 (Dyantyi, Jantjies, Mahuza tries; Jantjies con; Jantjies pen) at Canberra Stadium.