A brace of tries from wing Jack Maddocks helped the Rebels overturn a half-time deficit to defeat the Brumbies in a pulsating Australian derby at AAMI Park.
Despite a dominating opening first forty minutes, the Brumbies were slowly reeled in by the home side who started the second stanza in exhilarating fashion and completed their comeback late on.
After a nervy opening, with both sides kicking for territory, it was the Brumbies who struck first, the platform set by a scything break from fullback Tom Banks. Banks arced past the Rebels defence on a blistering run that ended just short of the try-line.
That set the tone for six minutes of visitor’s pressure with the Rebels conceding a raft of penalties in succession as the Rebels held on gamely.
Undeterred, the Brumbies kept calling for the scrum and, eventually, Joe Powell launched a miss-pass that gave Henry Speight just enough room to launch himself for the line, and touch down in the corner, despite the close intentions of Marika Korobiete. Christian Lealiifano landed an exquisite touchline conversion.
Quade Cooper reduced the deficit with a penalty just before the half-hour, but the Brumbies were soon back on the attack and Rebels’ skipper Adam Coleman was sent to the sin-bin as the penalty count mounted against the hosts. And the Brumbies made the advantage count.
Claiming a line-out from the resultant penalty the Brumbies maul clicked into gear and, almost inevitably, Folau Fainga’a rumbled over the line for his fourth try of the season, becoming the first Brumbies forward to score in four consecutive matches.
It got better for the Brumbies after the siren sounded for the break as the visiting team went further ahead. Kicking to the corner, the Brumbies set the maul into motion and looked destined to cross again only for Matt Gibbon to illegally halt the progress, conceding a penalty try and earning a yellow card in the process as the scored moved to 19-3 at the interval.
The Rebels, fielding only fourteen men, needed a bright start to the second half and they got it as Korobiete showed all his strength and finishing ability to crash over in the corner within two minutes of the resumption.
Starved of possession the Brumbies were forced onto the back foot for large parts of the second stanza and the Rebels found a second try as Maddocks cantered over following a powerful driving run from Dane Haylett-Petty. Cooper added the conversion to bring the score back to 19-15.
When the Brumbies finally got some ball, they were able to create room, off the back of a Pete Samu burst, for Rob Valetini to cross, but the ding-dong affair continued as Will Genia responded in kind, taking a quick tap-penalty to scoot under the uprights. With both kicks converted, it was as you were on the scoreboard.
But that all changed late on as Maddocks claimed his second try of the evening and Cooper’s conversion, sneaking in off the post, enabled the Rebels to complete the Conference double over their opponents.
Rebels (3) 29 (T: Korobiete, Maddocks (2), Genia, C: Cooper (3), P: Cooper)
Plus500 Brumbies (19) 26 (T: Speight, Fainga’a, Penalty-Try, Valetini, C: Lealiifano (2))