Canberra - The ACT Brumbies rocked the Western Force with four first-half tries before clinging on for a 28-17 victory on Saturday to move back ahead of the Queensland Reds in the race for the Australian Super Rugby conference title.
The Reds had pulled level with the Brumbies with a win in Melbourne on Friday but the Canberra-based side secured the all-important bonus point before halftime and held off a spirited Force fightback in the second period.
The Force had been hoping to give lock Wallabies Nathan Sharpe a winning farewell in his final home match before retirement but a brace of tries from winger Nick Cummins and another from lock Toby Lynn proved too little, too late.
“I thought the way we played in the first half is what we're capable of and we've just got to make sure we do it more often,” Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said in a pitchside interview.
“We take away five points from Perth, which is not easy to do, and we move on to the next one.”
Brumbies winger Jesse Mogg opened the scoring after only two minutes, fending off Force skipper David Pocock and rounding the last defender to score in the corner.
Prop Ben Alexander was the next to cross nine minutes later when he bulldozed through the Force defence and when flyhalf Zack Holmes converted the Brumbies were 12-0 ahead.
Pocock's customary fine work at the breakdown stymied a couple of Brumbies attacks but winger Henry Speight dived across the line in the 29th minute and Holmes added the fourth after cutting through the home defence with a neat sidestep.
The Force came out firing after turning around 22-0 down and started to throw the ball around to great effect with Cummins finishing well for tries in the same corner in the 43rd and 51st minutes.
Holmes notched his first penalty after 56 minutes but the Force were not done yet and Lynn forced his way over after a textbook catch and drive from a line-out with 12 minutes remaining.
All the momentum and most of the possession was with the Force in the last quarter and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief when Holmes slotted his second penalty in the 72nd minute to stretch the lead to 11 points.
“It's a bit disappointing to send Sharpie off with this result,” said Pocock. “But I'm proud of the resolve we showed in the second half.”
The Brumbies make the comparatively short trip to Sydney to face the New South Wales Waratahs next weekend before their final regular season match at home to the Auckland Blues. – Reuters