Brumbies beat Rebels in arm-wrestle as Noah Lolesio and Carter Gordon go at it in Wallabies selection showdown, score, highlights
The Brumbies and Rebels would have given their respective coaches Stephen Larkham and Kevin Foote heart palpitations, but Eddie Jones would have left AAMI Park smiling after an Australian classic on Sunday afternoon.
In greasy conditions after lunchtime rain, both sides put on a show but the Brumbies prevailed 33-26 in a brilliant affair in Melbourne.
The Brumbies looked like they would run over the top of the Rebels when Rob Valetini crashed over in the 63rd minute.
After multiple second half fades, including two against the Blues and Crusaders in the past month at home, it seemed like Rebels’ depth and finishers would once again be exposed.
But some more poor execution from the Brumbies out of their half after scoring points gave the Rebels a sniff.
Eventually, the try came as the Brumbies’ lineout transition crumbled and Carter Gordon – the star of the day in his head to head battle with Noah Lolesio – swooped on the loose ball from Luke Reimar’s poor pass and scored to cut the margin to a converted try in the 72nd minute.
With all the momentum and more territory, the home side turned down multiple set-piece opportunities from penalties and instead played on quickly hoping to crash over.
Not even a yellow card to Darcy Swain for cynical play on his own line helped, as the Rebels continued to try to barge over from close range. It didn’t work.
“We failed to execute there at the end,” vice-captain and centre Reece Hodge lamented.
“In hindsight, we probably should have gone the scrum with one of their locks off the field and closed it out. It’s disappointing.”
Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa was just happy to come away with the win, having almost blown the game in the final 15 minutes of the match.
“It was good,” he said. “You’ve definitely got to be proud of the effort.
“I thought maybe towards the last 10 minutes we lacked a bit of concentration and allowed them to get back into the game.
“But on the other side of that, I was just proud of the effort. Some big defensive plays on our goal line there saved the game today.”
While the Brumbies were very much their own worst enemy, the Rebels never went away and usually, with the exception of the final stages, made the visitors pay.
More to come…