The ACT Brumbies consolidated their lead at the top of the Australian Super Rugby conference with an efficient 27-19 victory over the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
The Brumbies moved to 49 points on the table with the victory, nine ahead of the Reds (40), who have a bye and will be awarded four points at the end of the round.
The Canberra-based side were in turmoil last season but have thrived under 2007 World Cup winning coach Jake White and short of a major collapse in their final three games should make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 – when they last won the competition.
“I'll take that every day of the week, that's four points in this competition and that's extremely hard to do,” Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said in a pitchside interview.
“It's a tough competition and a long competition and you have to be making sure you are ticking those wins over and I'm extremely glad we did that.”
The Brumbies took a 9-0 lead courtesy of two long-range penalties from winger Jesse Mogg and one from closer to the posts by flyhalf Zack Holmes
Centre Andrew Smith also crashed over after Rebels prop Jono Owen had been sin-binned by referee Keith Brown following a warning to the home team for repeated infringements.
The Brumbies, however, went off the boil in the final 15 minutes of the half and Rebels fullback Julian Huxley added three further penalties to the one he had slotted earlier to ensure his side were still in the game at the break.
The visitors extended their lead to 12 points after the break when Holmes added his second penalty then converted fullback Robbie Coleman's try, but the Rebels refused to allow them to kick away.
Rebels winger Cooper Vuna scored straight from the kickoff following Coleman's try when the Brumbies failed to regather the restart and the home side were again back within five points when Huxley converted from the sideline.
Holmes, however, added his third penalty with less than 10 minutes remaining as the Brumbies did just enough to win the game.
“It was a game we were in for the full 80 (minutes)... and we're disappointed not to get anything from the game,” said Melbourne's Gareth Delve.
“I think it was a bit of indiscipline in the first 10 minutes that allowed the Brumbies to push out that lead.” – Reuters