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The RaboDirect Rebels have gone down 39-17 to the Brumbies, on a cold Friday evening in Canberra.
The Rebels suffered a disappointing 33-20 defeat at Suncorp Stadium against the Reds six days earlier, and had been looking to record their first ever victory at Canberra Stadium with a two and a half week break awaiting them afterwards.
With the British & Irish Lions on Australian soil, both sides featured plenty of new faces with many of their stars on Qantas Wallaby duty. For the Rebels, Nick Phipps and James O'Connor were both training with the national side, and Shota Horie with the Japanese team. Kurtley Beale remained unavailable for selection, while Scott Higginbotham, Hugh Pyle, Bryce Hegarty and Jarrod Saffy were absent due to injury.
Every cloud has its silver lining, and the inclusions of Gareth Delve, James Hilgendorf, Cadeyrn Neville, Nic Stirzaker and Jordy Reid into the starting lineup was an exciting sight for Rebels fans. James King, Pat Leafa and Tim Davidson were also named on the bench for the first time this season, while Angus Roberts returned from injury as a late bench replacement for the virus-stricken Hegarty.
Wallaby scrumhalf Luke Burgess was also on the bench for the Rebels following his return from France, with the 2014 signing given dispensation to play following Phipps' Wallaby selection, while hooker Ged Robinson was making his 50th Super Rugby appearance.
Nic Henderson had announced his retirement earlier in the day, effective as of the end of the season, so despite the Rebels no longer being in finals contention there was no shortage of motivation to succeed.
In just the third minute, the Brumbies combined after Peter Kimlin broke the line to travel 70 metres as a team and score one of the tries of the season through Scott Sio, though Jesse Mogg was unable to convert the try.
And less than ten minutes later the hosts were in again. Good work from Scott Fardy culminated in former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone diving over in the far left hand corner, and while Mogg's conversion attempt was again unsuccessful, the visitors were victims of a tough opening on their travels.
A year out of Super Rugby had done nothing to diminish Hilgendorf's confidence, with a clever chip kick early almost resulting in a try to Lachie Mitchell, and Jason Woodward slotted a penalty goal just after the twenty minute mark to reduce the deficit to seven points as the Rebels began to look more settled in the nation's capital.
Reid's speed to the breakdown was a highlight, as was Delve's tenacity, but with Mogg and Matt Toomua kicking so well in play the Rebels were unable to capitalise on multiple phases and they went in at the break down 10-3.
It took just two minutes after play resumed for Mogg to extend the lead when he slotted a long-range penalty goal, but against the run of play the Rebels scored their first try of the evening when Woodward capitalised on an error forced by a massive Neville tackle on his own goal line.
The Rebels went the length of the field, and when Woodward was dragged down a fantastic offload to Tom English enabled the young winger to score his third Super Rugby try under the posts unopposed, with Woodward slotting the extras.
But the Brumbies were determined to make their early second-half domination amount to scoreboard pressure, and hit back instantly when Toomua's fantastic cut-out pass set up Rathbone for his second try, though replacement scrumhalf Ian Prior dragged the conversion attempt wide.
And the Brumbies had their fourth try, and the subsequent bonus point, when Henry Speight dissected Woodward and Stirzaker and swan dived over following an unbelievable Peter Kimlin offload; this time Prior made no mistake with the kick.
Faingaa was the next to score a converted try, and Zac Holmes did minutes later; the Brumbies were certainly showing their depth and championship credentials.
But to the visitor's credit, Paul Alo-Emile managed to cross over for his first Super Rugby try following concerted pressure and repeated pick and drives. Woodward drilled the kick to add some respectability to the score, and when the hooter sounded the final score was 39-17.
Cameo appearances from Burgess, Alo-Emile and Leafa had shown real promise, but an injury to Mitchell further soured a disappointing loss and there was no doubt Damien Hill and his coaching staff would be working the squad hard ahead of their next assignment against the British & Irish Lionson Tuesday June 25 at AAMI Park.
2013 Super Rugby - Round 17
Friday 7 June, Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Brumbies 39-17 RaboDirect Rebels
RaboDirect Rebels - Tries: English, Alo-Emile. Cons: Woodward (2). Pens: Woodward
Brumbies - Tries: Sio, Rathbone, Speight, Faingaa, Holmes. Cons: Prior (3). Pens: Mogg
1. Nic Henderson, 2. Ged Robinson, 3. Laurie Weeks, 4. Cadeyrn Neville, 5. Luke Jones, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Gareth Delve, 9. Nic Stirzaker, 10. James Hilgendorf, 11. Lachlan Mitchell, 12. Rory Sidey, 13. Mitch Inman, 14. Tom English, 15. Jason Woodward, 16. Pat Leafa, 17. Paul Alo-Emile, 18. James King, 19. Tim Davidson, 20. Luke Burgess, 21. Angus Roberts, 22. Kimami Sitauti
Coach: Damien Hill
1. Scott Sio, 2. Siliva Siliva, 3. Dan Palmer, 4. Leon Power, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Scott Fardy, 7. Colby Faingaa, 8. Peter Kimlin, 9. Nic White (captain), 10. Matt Toomua, 11. Clyde Rathbone, 12. Pat McCabe, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Jesse Mogg, 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. Ruan Smith, 18. Etienne Oosthuizen, 19. Jordan Smiler, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Zack Holmes
Coach: Jake White
The Western Force return to NIB Stadium for the second time this season and the Honey Badger wants sea of blue fans to “get your carcass on the chair”! In 2014 the Force had a slow start to the season, before finishing off strongly, and they will be hoping for a repeat after winning just one of their opening four matches this season!
The Queensland Reds are struggling with injury and form at present, and they’ve been handed another massive blow this weekend with James O’Connor (leg) & Lachie Turner (concussion) being ruled out. Suffering a 23-5 loss to the NSW Waratahs on the weekend, the Reds will run onto Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night looking to turn their season around after just one win to their name in the opening four rounds coming against the Western Force two weeks ago!