The Rebels have arrived as the team to beat in the Australian Conference, blitzing the Brumbies 33-10 in a match with plenty of feeling at AAMI Park.
It was the Will Genia show once again in attack but the depth coach Dave Wessels has at his disposal was on display, as Ross Haylett-Petty and later, Colby Faingaa shined as pivotal pieces in the Melbourne engine room.
Amanaki Mafi put in an enormous shift with ball in hand, smashing over the gain line with every carry, but the work of locks Matt Philip and the younger Haylett-Petty brother, on either side of the ball, was also of note.
The Brumbies came flying out of the gates early with added purpose not sighted at Suncorp Stadium last week, forcing five penalties in the opening 10 minutes and crossing through Chance Peni after their third straight dominant scrum.But the Rebels readjusted and critically, did not panic.
They finally got their hands on some consistent ball after 20 minutes of defending with a real sense of vigour and for the rest of the first term, Genia steered the ship with typical command.
Genia's flat passing from the breakdown put Melbourne over the gain line 90 percent of their first half carries and their scrum started to stiffen up, providing a platform for Amanaki Mafi to crash into the goal post and score his side's first with 28 on the clock.
The lead up play to Reece Hodge's try was a work of art, masterfully conducted by Genia.
The ball moved from sideline to sideline, forwards running pinpoint lines and Genia hitting them on the chest with bullets from the base of the ruck.That had the Brumbies back pedalling all the way from 40 out to their try line, where Genia threw another brilliant pass across the face of the defensive line to put Hodge over five minutes after Mafi crossed to open up a 14-5 half time lead.
McKellar was clearly fuming with the first half effort as he made some key changes minutes into the second half with Christian Lealiifano and Tom Banks pulled in favour of Whareniu Hawera and Andy Muirhead, the result being a try to Henry Speight which put the visitors within striking distance with 25 to play.
A Les Makin yellow card followed for repeated maul collapses as the Rebels again applied the heat and with 18 to play, the ball squirted out the back of a ruck and Genia found Hodge for his second.The ball squirted out the back of another ruck with 10 to play and Richard Hardwick set off for the line from 60 out, dishing to Michael Ruru, who beat the cover defence to the corner to put the icing on the cake.
The win puts the Brumbies, the preseason pick by many pundits to claim the Australian Conference crown once more, 11 points behind Melbourne on the Australian ladder.
There are serious injury concerns for ACT as well, with co-captain Sam Carter going off early after failing a HIA and Josh Mann-Rea seemingly suffering a hamstring on the stroke of half time.
Tries: Mafi, Hodge 2, Maddocks, Ruru
Cons: Hodge 4
Tries: Peni, Speight