A barnstorming double from comeback king Pat McCabe has helped lift the Brumbies to a 26-9 Super Rugby win over the Auckland Blues in Canberra.
Man-of-the-match McCabe was superb for the Brumbies in treacherously wet conditions at Canberra Stadium, making several breaks and constantly bending the defensive line.
It was the 26-year-old Test centre’s best performance since breaking his neck for the second time in June last year.
Fullback Jesse Mogg meanwhile kept the Blues pinned down in their own half for most the match with his booming left boot.
While the Brumbies scored three tries, their defence was equally superb against a try-less Blues outfit that had previously averaged more than 30 points a game this year.
The Brumbies were extremely successful at disrupting the Blues’ ball at the ruck, with Wallabies forward Scott Fardy the standout over the ball.
Brumbies hooker Siliva Siliva was exceptional with the greasy ball at the line-out in Stephen Moore’s absence, while the Blues were perhaps unlucky at the scrum with several debatable penalty calls made against them.
The Blues dominated possession early, but the Brumbies displayed patience and then made the most of their first opportunity with textbook ball-retention rugby in the slippery conditions.
The in form McCabe then followed up several strong runs to trample over young Blues flyhalf Simon Hickey to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
The two sides traded two penalty goals apiece to go into the break with the Brumbies taking a deserved 13-6 lead.
Flyhalf Matt Toomua copped a knock to the knee and was replaced by fellow Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano, who wasted no time making an impact of his own.
He launched a half break to get the Blues back-peddling, before firing out a long pass to set up McCabe’s second try in the 53rd minute.
Winger Robbie Coleman scored his sixth try of the year in the 57th minute to give the home side a 23-9 lead, before Lealiifano sealed the victory with a 70th minute penalty goal.
Mogg came off in the last quarter with a hamstring concern, while workhorse lock Sam Carter also hobbled off in the second half.
The result keeps the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference, while the Blues experienced their 11th straight away loss.
Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher applauded McCabe’s outstanding performance.
“He stuck to the plan. He carried at their young No.10 (Hickey), found him a few times, and found him early,” Fisher said.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he was particularly pleased with his side’s ability to quickly improve their discipline at the ruck after a final warning from referee Rohan Hoffman midway through the second half.
“Whereas in the last couple of weeks we haven’t made that adjustment as quickly, and they’re the calls that decide the game,” Mowen said.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said the Brumbies’ pinpoint kicking combined with the slippery conditions limited his side’s momentum.
“They were really aggressive at the breakdown, kicked us into the corners and played a really good tactical game,” he said.
Blues captain Jerome Kaino said the Brumbies executed a clinical game plan which starved his side of possession.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to them, they played to the conditions the best,” he said.