Former Test winger Clyde Rathbone showed he has lost none of his skill, turning in a solid performance in his return from retirement as the Brumbies beat Western Force 20-18 in a Super Rugby trial.
Rathbone, who retired in 2009 due to injuries and suffered depression while away from the game, showed power to score Brumbies’ second try of the night at Rugby Park in Darwin.
The 31-year-old Rathbone, a former Wallabies winger, showed no signs of the persistent injuries that prematurely put his career on hold.
“Not long now until the first game and it is all shaping up well,” Rathbone said.
“Obviously we played two very different teams in both 40-minute blocks so it was encouraging to see us do the things that we do in training in the game.”
As lightning crackled overhead on a warm Darwin night the Brumbies dominated the first half, with Matt Toomua also scoring a try to help build an early 17-3 lead.
At the start of the second half Brumbies coach Jake White gave some of his less-experienced players a run, taking off Rathbone and former Force captain David Pocock.
Pocock had been strong early in defence against his former teammates but never shone.
Against the new faces and as the monsoon rains began to fall in the second half, the Force powered back.
Brumbies loosehead prop Ruaidhri Murphy was sin-binned early in the second half after a professional foul.
Force reserve Junior Rasolea scored a try with 10 minutes left in the game, but the conversion that would have levelled the scores was missed.
The Force then pushed two penalty goal attempts wide.
White said it had been a tough match and that he wanted to give all 30 of his players a run.
“I suppose the lessons that we learned out of that were that every boy has to understand it is quite a tough competition,” White told AAP.
“I didn’t want to risk injuries and play my best players right through.
“So 40 minutes for the first group, I think they started really well and the second group showed a lot of character in the way they finished the game off.”
He said conditions in the second half went against his team.
“It was pelting with rain and we were playing a lot in our half because of the weather, but all credit to them, the boys stuck it out,” White said.
Pocock said it was a bit weird to be playing his former teammates but the game was going too fast to pay attention to any niggling that may have gone on.
“These trials are often just about effort and I think the boys did put it in,” Pocock said.
Force coach Michael Foley said the game was a “massive step up” for his boys.
“I think when you look at the final 60, for us to have scored virtually all the points in that 60 minutes (was pleasing). I think the longer the game went I felt the more we found our combination and the more we settled into a bit of a rhythm,” Foley said.