A dream return to Super Rugby looks certain for Clyde Rathbone, with the former Wallabies winger scoring two tries in the Brumbies 38-7 win over the ACT XV on Friday.
Rathbone, who retired from professional rugby in 2009, had both his trademark corner-finding speed and the slick hands of Christian Lealiifano to thank for his tries.
Coach Jake White said Lealiifano looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
“I thought (Matt Toomua) played really well, as well,” White said.
“He was brave, he took the ball to the line … and that’s probably why Christian was allowed to get so much movement.”
The injury-free hitout will give the Brumbies ample confidence going into next week’s season opener against the Queensland Reds, however they were not pushed to their limit in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Viking Park.
The Brumbies did get an early scare when their backline bombed a certain try from 15 metres out.
ACT XV winger Stephan Van Der Walt swooped on the loose pass from Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg and raced 85 metres to the tryline.
But the lead was shortlived and the traffic was then all one way for the Super Rugby side.
David Pocock kicked off his Canberra rugby life in style when he dived off the back of a rolling maul from close range to level the score.
Lealiifano then busted a tackle just past halfway, before drawing the fullback to send Mogg over the line in the 16th minute.
The floodgates looked to open when Rathbone scored in the 22nd minute, but the ACT XV dug in and prevented the Brumbies crossing again until after halftime, when Stephen Moore and Nic White both scored from close range.
Scott Sio made a strong bust up the middle in the 56th minute before he was brought down. But in a quick recycle of the ball, Lealiifano flicked the ball out to Rathbone who scored the final try of the night.
Coach Jake White wouldn’t say whether Rathbone would start next week’s match, but said he had proven he was still up to Super Rugby level.
“He’s still got it,” White said.
“I have no hesitation in, if I have to announce him, that I don’t think he’s good enough. It just means that him, Henry (Speight) and Joe (Tomane) have to push hard for those two wing positions.”