Brumbies captain Ben Mowen has helped lift his side from a scratchy first half against the ACT XV with two tries to lead his side to a 38-7 victory in Canberra.
Initially planned as an opposed training run, the Brumbies played the first half as though the match was a trial by name only, never fully gaining momentum and heading into the break 7-7.
Having demolished the ACT XV 67-0 with a similarly strong side a week ago, last year’s Super Rugby runners-ups pushed too many passes in their hunt to rekindle the magic.
Their efforts to retain the ball were further hindered by their work at the breakdown, with the ACT XV scoring several turnovers.
Mowen admitted his side would have to improve before next Saturday’s season opener against the Queensland Reds, who boast ball-thieves Liam Gill and Jake Schatz.
“We were extremely slow with our connection to our ball carriers, we left windows everywhere,” Mowen said.
“And if we’re short in those (areas) next week we won’t get a result, simple as that.”
It was only fitting that the Brumbies opened the scoring 25 minutes into the first half against the run of play through a charge down to inside centre Pat McCabe – who played a confidence-building 70 minutes following two neck injuries, as well as a head knock in his return game against the Highlanders two weeks ago.
Another positive sign for the Brumbies was that star Wallabies flanker David Pocock played an injury-free 80 minutes, his first full game since last year’s season-ending knee injury.
Following McCabe’s opening try, the ACT XV hit back minutes before halftime through lock Tom Staniforth – the first and only five-pointer conceded by the Brumbies in their three trial games.
The Brumbies were kicked into gear by coaches Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham at halftime, and showed renewed intent to keep the ball tighter, which paid off when Ben Mowen scored two tries from rolling mauls within 18 minutes after the break.
“It was good to see that we could get a response like that mid-game,” Mowen said.
Reserve Brumbies hooker Siliva Siliva put the game out of reach in the 61st minute when he pounced on a loose ACT XV lineout, with the Brumbies capitalising on the momentum with two late tries out wide to fullback Jesse Mogg and winger Robbie Coleman.