The Brumbies opened their Super Rugby AU campaign with a 31-23 win over the Rebels on Saturday night.
What are we talking about after that gritty encounter?
1. Brumbies tick off win number one
They’re the competition favourites and the Brumbies kept their title aspirations on track with an opening win.
After dominating early, the Brumbies’ 18-point lead was whittled down to just one point but they managed to hang on and see off the challenge.
It was by no means their most emphatic win but a bonus-point victory is the best start they could have hoped for after four months away from competitive rugby.
They have the added challenge now of a bye week before returning to action against the Force in Canberra.
2. De ja vu for Rebels
Conceding an early lead and not being able to run it down. The Rebels have been here before against the Brumbies, in fact it was the last time they played.
In February, the Rebels fell 24 points down and couldn't overcome that gulf and tonight, it was 18.
It’s a fact that Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty and coach Dave Wessels were both quick to point out speaking post-match.
Wessels lamented poor discipline from his side that played into the Brumbies' hands, allowing them to go to the lineout and score both from mauls and set plays.
Crucial errors in the final 10 minutes hurt their chances of pulling off a comeback but ultimately it was the first half that put the game out of reach.
3. Rebels get one up in the scrum
While the Rebels didn’t take the overall win in Canberra, they took fairly significant bragging rights in the scrum.
On paper, and generally in execution, the Brumbies have the best Australian scrum, with the Reds close behind.
However, the Rebels quickly got the ascendancy in that area and ultimately won six penalties off the scrum for the game.
Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa expressed his frustration post-match, lamenting their early infringements especially, setting up the context for the rest of the game.
It’s not often that the scrum is an area of concern for the Brumbies but they’ll certainly be looking closely at ways to address that in their bye week.
4. Lolesio picks up where he left off
Noah Lolesio continues to play well beyond expectations for a 20-year-old flyhalf in his first year of Super Rugby.
Coming back after four months out, there were some questions over whether he could continue his early season momentum
In January, he had the advantage of being somewhat unknown and untested but now teams wouold be looking out for him.
Lolesio answered all of those questions without missing a beat in Canberra on Saturday night.
His opposite number and Wallabies incumbent Matt To’omua was solid in Canberra but Lolesio absolutely matched him and arguably bested him in the Brumbies win.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie spoke earlier this week about how impressed he has been with Lolesio and the pivot has done nothing to harm his chances of a Test squad callup at the least when Wallabies action is back on the cards.
The pressure on the playmaker will only continue to rise if he maintains this form but so far he has shown he can take all that in his stride.
5. Powell faces career-defining period
Not to be too dramatic but Joe Powell’s next 10 weeks could be career-defining.
Powell was unlucky to miss out on last year’s World Cup squad but with Nic White joining the Brumbies in 2021 and Powell in his final contract year, he knew 2020 would have to be a big one.
He had an inconsistent Super Rugby campaign at the start of this year and was not part of Dave Rennie’s loose Players of National Interest squad created during the shutdown.
Before the start of Super Rugby AU, there was speculation that Powell was looking overseas with no new deal being discusses..
If he continues to play the way he did on Saturday night, though, it is hard to imagine him walking away from Australia without a fight.
The post-COVID rugby economy is still hard to gauge but Powell put in a timely reminder of his quality on Saturday night.
He scored a super try off the back of a maul in the first half and played a solid role on both sides of the ball.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar praised Powell’s performance post-match and his form line will certainly be one to keep an eye on in Super Rugby AU.