Fullback Jason Woodward scored a club-record 27 points as the Melbourne Rebels upset Australian Super 15 conference leaders the ACT Brumbies 32-24 yesterday.
Woodward could do little wrong, amassing a try, two conversions and six penalties as the Rebels fought back from 10-3 down at halftime.
The Brumbies, last season’s Super Rugby finalists, could not handle the inspired Rebels in the second half as the home side surged to victory after trailing 17-6 in the 48th minute.
Woodward, coming back from injury, ignited the Rebels’ comeback with a powerful try, as he beat a couple of tackles to score and convert from the sideline to put Melbourne in front for the first time 19-17 on the hour.
Winger Tom English lost the ball over the try line minutes later, before center Mitch Inman powered over 10 minutes from time, with Woodward again converting for a 29-17 lead.
The Brumbies hit back with minutes left after winger Robbie Coleman gathered Matt Toomua’s chip kick to score and trail by five points.
However, the contest was over when blindside flanker Colby Fainga’a was awarded a penalty in a ruck for Woodward to kick his sixth penalty and seal victory.
Woodward did not miss a kick from his eight attempts as the Rebels got stronger against the flat Brumbies in the second half.
“It’s what we have been talking about doing all week. You’ve got to be physical against these blokes and it was good to see it come off,” Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham said.
“Credit to the boys, we hung in and kept playing our own game the whole time,” he added.
It was only the Rebels’ second win in seven encounters against the Brumbies and their second home win over the Canberra-based team.
“They gave us a good lesson in energy, particularly in the last 35 minutes, and in this competition you can’t assume things are going to happen, you’ve got to make them, and I thought the Rebels did that tonight,” Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said.
“I think there were some flat spots in our game and the Rebels exposed that well and truly. It’s a difficult place to come down here and play, and they always play well at home,” he added.
The Brumbies began strongly, with fullback Jesse Mogg scoring in the third minute off the back of a dominant scrum.
The Brumbies got their second try off their powerful scrum when the back-pedaling Rebels conceded a penalty try in the 48th minute.
However, the visitors made too many mistakes. They conceded 26 turnovers and made 12 handling errors, and missed 22 tackles.
The NSW Waratahs get the chance to take over at the top of the Australian conference if they can defeat the Coastal Sharks in Durban today.
HURRICANES V CRUSADERS
AFP, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand
The Wellington Hurricanes defeated the Canterbury Crusaders 29-26 yesterday in a seesawing match played at blistering pace between the New Zealand rivals.
The Hurricanes scored four tries to three to earn just their second win of the Super 15 season and leave the Crusaders at the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Johnny McNicholl managed two first-half tries for the home team, but it was a wonder try from Alapati Leiua that settled the match, with the winger shrugging off five tacklers as he ran almost the length of the field to score in the dying stages.