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'Like the under 10s': Wright's Jonah Lomu moment sums up Brumbies' power, but cards are a wake up call

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24th May, 2024
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The ACT Brumbies got the bonus point win they needed to keep their slim top two hopes alive against the Rebels but a challenging second half, where they conceded three yellow cards, gave them an unexpected and handy wake up call ahead of the finals.

The Brumbies overcame the concession of two tries while down to 13 men to finish strongly and secure their best-ever win over the Rebels of 53-17.

Test prop James Slipper was replaced at halftime and suffered a calf strain and will likely miss next week’s game against the Force with Stephen Larkham accepting they will probably finish third or fourth.

The Brumbies brushed the Rebels aside in the opening 40 minutes – literally in the case of Wallabies fullback in waiting Tom Wright, who delivered one superb moment of power in another fine game.

Tom Wright of the Brumbies heads to the try line to score during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium, on May 24, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Tom Wright of the Brumbies heads to the try line to score during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium, on May 24, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

They went to the sheds leading 34-3, their internationals enjoying themselves at the expense of the Rebels, and anything looked possible. But ill discipline in the second period allowed the Rebels to cross twice before the game was put to bed with a late charge.

Wallabies Rob Valetini, Tom Hooper, Nick Frost and Len Ikitau were in excellent form in the first half and Wright, who had seven tries in his past nine games, added two more, the first showing his booming confidence.

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“They’re playing with not just confidence, but a desire,” noted Tim Horan. “They know the Wallabies squad’s not far away.”

Wright looks a special for the No.15 jersey and for his first he picked up a loose ball inside the Rebels 10 metres, surveyed his options and then Jonah Lomued his way straight over Brad Wilkin.

So surprising was the ease by which he motored over the top of the Rebels flanker that Stan commentator Sean Maloney at first blamed Wilkin’s fellow ‘ranga’ Andrew Kellaway for the miss.

Kellaway is the other leading candidate to take on the No.15 shirt in the opening Tests against Wales in July and he had a night of ups and downs as the Brumbies smashed forward at will in the first half.

A loose Kellaway pass in the opening minutes gave the Brumbies a chance to equalise an early Rebels penalty and he made a dog’s breakfast of cleaning up a kick through.

He did partially redeem himself with a scrambling recovery to prevent a Toole try.

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After the Hurricanes 20-17 win over the Chiefs earlier, which took them top of the table overnight, the Brumbies need back to back bonus point wins to have any chance of a top two finish.

They secured the bonus point inside the opening half, scoring three tries between the half hour mark and half time after Angus Gardner, breaking the record for appearances as a Super Rugby ref, lost patience with repeated Rebels infringements and sent Darby Lancaster to the bin.

Lancaster had barely got his bum on the naughty chair before Wright steamrollered Wilkin for the first of three tries that came with the Rebel off the field. Wright rubbed it in by giving Jordan Uelese a serve and a cheeky grin.

“The kid’s got confidence – it was like the under 10s the way he looked up and ran at the defence,” said Tim Horan in Stan Sport commentary.

“It’s going to impress the Wallaby coach, I reckon. The way that he is able to just manage the game. 

“He’s taken a lot of mistakes, little mistakes out of his game this year. You look at Tom Wright, say two years ago, and the mistakes that he’d be making –  he might score a try, but he might let one or two in.

“When you go to that next level and you’re playing in a gold jersey, you can’t have any mistakes at all.”

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His Super coach Larkham is suitably impressed.

“He’s taking his chances and we’re encouraging that as much as possible” said Larkham. “He’s just a very powerful athlete, so you want to see him carry the ball as much as possible.”

Wright’s was the second try and while it was a moment of individual brilliance, the first showcased the Brumbies’ all round power – a series of offloads, of which Tamati Tua’s was the first and best – leading to Jahrome Brown crossing.

With Lancaster missing from the left edge Ikitau and Toole preyed on the space and got them in striking range. First Frost, and then Billy Pollard, helped themselves to five pointers.

Len Ikitau of the Brumbies in action during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium, on May 24, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Len Ikitau of the Brumbies. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Noah Lolesio was locked in and kicked all seven attempts before the break, where both coaches took the opportunity to rest some workhorses with finals footy on the horizon – certainly for the Brumbies while the Rebels still have top eight in their hands.

Wright burst out of the blocks for his second straight after halftime but the Brumbies lost Brown and Tua to the sin bin at the same time and Filipo Daugunu took advantage with a try against the 13 men.

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The Rebels were outclassed, especially with carter Gordon missing, but they tried to match the Brumbies’ physicality.

Taniela Tupou came on in the second half and put in two huge cleanouts on Wallabies teammates Tom Hooper and Darcy Swain that rattled their bones.

“We knew that the Rebels were going to be really physical, especially off the back of last week, and obviously there’s a lot going on in Melbourne, and we’ve got to feel for them with that, so we knew that we had to front up physically, and I thought that the boys did that really well,” said Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa.

“Probably one issue could have been discipline around the penalties given away and three yellow cards.

“We were playing with 13 for roughly 20 minutes there, so definitely something for us to look at.”

Rebels skipper Rob Leota said: “I think just probably our discipline again didn’t help us at all, just helping them get into their 22 entries. When you gift the Brumbies with penalties like that, it starts to pay a toll for the team, so we’ve just got to be more disciplined in those areas.”

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