Canberra – Pat McCabe scored a career first try double as the ACT Brumbies downed the Auckland Blues 26-9 to stay top of the Australian conference in Super Rugby in Canberra on Friday.
The Brumbies scored three tries to nil with Wallaby centre McCabe claiming two of them in a commanding victory over John Kirwan's Blues.
McCabe made several breaks and constantly dented the defensive line in his best performance since breaking his neck for the second time in June last year.
It was the first time the Brumbies had kept the Blues try-less in Super Rugby and it was the 11th straight away loss for the inconsistent Aucklanders.
The win took the Canberra-based side five points clear at the top of the Australian conference ahead of the NSW Waratahs, who play the Western Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
McCabe was prominent early before he powered through Blues fly-half Simon Hickey to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
The two sides traded two penalty goals each to go into the break with the Brumbies leading 13-6.
Fly-half Matt Toomua was replaced by Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano at halftime after taking a knock to the knee and launched a half-break to get the Blues back-peddling.
Jesse Mogg fired out a long pass for McCabe to score his second try in the 53rd minute.
Diminutive winger Robbie Coleman wrapped up the game for the home side four minutes later after strong runs by Mogg and Ben Alexander.
Lealiifano kicked a penalty with 10 minutes left to open a 17-point buffer over the Blues, who dominated possession in the closing stages but could not score.
The Brumbies, under first-season coach Stephen Larkham, have now won five of their seven games, while the Blues have slipped to 3-4.
It was a much more enthusiastic Brumbies effort after their 32-24 upset loss to the Rebels in Melbourne the previous week.
“It was a great reaction after last week, we wanted to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion and I thought we did that tonight,” Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said.
“When you can turn around a side like the Blues and try to put pressure on their set-piece, then it helps you get a foothold in the game... it was a really pleasing display tonight.”
Blues captain Jerome Kaino said his side wanted to carry on their momentum from last week's win over the Otago Highlanders and try to get an away win.
“The Brumbies were able to get their kicking game going in the first half and they suffocated us getting the ball,” Kaino said.
“We have to address that (losing away) and the bye has come at the right time for us and we have a lot of work to do. We have another away game against the Hurricanes after the bye.” – Sapa-AFP