Pre-match, Brumbies coach Jake White predicted his side would stop Rebels big guns Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor from firing. True to his word, the Brumbies cruised home 37-6 in Canberra last night with hardly a peep from the talented twosome.
That took some doing, usually Beale and O’Connor find a way. But not last night, the performance door was shut tight.
This was an impressive display by the Brumbies, even though their intensity fell away in the second session.
They led 30-6 at the break, having already posted four tries and the handy bonus point. What was so outstanding was converting dominant stats into points.
Unlike the Waratahs the night before, where similar stats against the Force netted only 10 points, the Brumbies soldiered on building on their 63% possession rate, spending 61% in the Rebel half, and 5 minutes 18 seconds in the Rebel 22 compared to the Rebels 1 minute 45 late in the half, in reply.
The clincher, the Brumbies 56-18 domination of the rucks and mauls. They owned the ball.
If there is a worry for the Australian Conference leaders, is their inability to kick on when they’re in control. Scoring just seven points in the second half was a waste.
However, flanker Michael Hooper was a revelation. Why he’s been a benchman in the past is one of the few Jake White decisions this season that hasn’t made any sense. Hooper is a David Pocock-type player, but not big enough to be a one-man destruction unit like the Force skipper.
Hooker Stephen Moore was a standout with a dozen incisive runs, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, and skipper Ben Mowen were busy and effective all night with a milestone for Fardy with his first two tries in Super Rugby – one in each half.
Out the back, the much-maligned Pat McCabe played all over O’Connor in their 12-jersey head-to-head, his opening try burst right through the O’Connor tackle from 10 metres out, while half-back Nic White doesn’t know how to turn in a bad game.
The Rebels were a rabble in the first half, a far cry from the dedication of last weeks win over the Auckland Blues. But to their credit they knuckled down in the second half and by game’s end had roughly evened the possession and ruck-maul counts. No mean feat.
But most of that hard work was ruined by poor handling, poor passes, and turnovers, resulting in a scoreless session.
Rebels skipper Gareth Delve summed it up best.
“I was very impressed with the Brumbies, they play solid and smart rugby. We have the team and the game plan to contest that, but we didn’t put it in place”.
Delve could have so easily have added – “If Beale and O’Connor don’t make the breaks, we’re stuffed”.
Well coached Jake White.