Melbourne Rebels prove no match for under-strength side in Canberra.
The ACT Brumbies virtually secured the Australian conference and qualified for their first finals in nine years with a bonus-point 39-17 Super 15 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra on Friday.
Missing five current Wallabies, the Brumbies moved five points clear of their nearest conference rivals Queensland Reds with one match left to play before next month’s playoffs.
The Brumbies shook off their first-half lethargy to storm away from the Rebels after leading 10-3 at halftime to score four second-half tries and win convincingly.
It is the first time the Brumbies have qualified for the Super Rugby finals since winning the southern hemisphere provincial series in 2004.
Former South African winger Clyde Rathbone scored a brace of tries with other tries from Scott Sio, Henry Speight, Colby Faingaa and Zack Holmes.
Replacement scrum-half Ian Prior kicked three conversions and fullback Jesse Mogg a long-range penalty.
Stand-in captain and Wallabies hopeful Nic White left the field in the ninth minute clutching his shoulder as Wallaby coach Robbie Deans looked on ahead of naming Tuesday’s final Test squad to face the British and Irish Lions.
The Rebels, without their two Wallabies James O’Connor and Nick Phipps and sidelined injured forwards Scott Higginbotham, Hugh Pyle and Jarrod Saffy, closed to 13-10 after a try by winger Tom English against the run of play.
But the Brumbies hit back with four consecutive tries to seize control of the match and clinch a four-try bonus point.
“I know that we are proud of winning the conference and we get into the playoffs for the first time in a long time but our coaching staff are really proud with the way the bench and those who haven’t had a chance for a long time, really stood up and took their chance tonight,” Brumbies coach Jake White said.
“We knew it was about preparation going into this game and this group has been together for two years and as soon as they lifted their intensity and started some go-forward we got some pay.”
There are only two Australian-only matches this weekend as New Zealand and South African teams have a three-week break for Test rugby.
The Brumbies play their final regular season match against Western Force in Perth on July 13, while the Rebels are at home to New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders on July 12.