The Brumbies have consolidated their place on top of Super Rugby’s Australian conference with an all-important 43-24 bonus-point win over Queensland at GIO Stadium.
The ACT franchise extended their winning streak to four on a freezing Friday night thanks to a try double to Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore.
The hosts had a shaky start and trailled 10-0 before their attack was sparked by Argentinian halfback Tomas Cubelli, who replaced Joe Powell in the 58th minute, that led to three tries in the final 20 minutes.
The six-tries-to-three victory puts them five points ahead of fierce rivals the NSW Waratahs, who play Japan’s unfancied Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.
Even if the Tahs land a win with bonus point, the Brumbies will retain the lead with an extra victory up their sleeve with two regular-season games remaining.
It was a rather uninspiring affair in Canberra after the month-long international hiatus.
Near-zero temperatures and a greasy field meant plenty of errors and injuries – including to Brumbies debutant and No.8 Ben Hyne, whose first Super Rugby game lasted less than five minutes after he rolled his ankle.
The Reds drew first blood with a penalty goal and converted try to hooker Andrew Ready for a 10-0 lead after 18 minutes.
It took a while for the Brumbies to warm up, but they finally did just before the break via co-captain Moore off a rolling maul.
A Ben Alexander five-pointer after the half-time siren gave them a 15-10 lead.
Queensland were denied the chance to level the scores in the 42nd minute after the TMO spotted a foot in touch en route to an entertaining Samu Kerevi try.
Instead, the hosts skipped ahead with another Moore effort – his seventh of the season, the most ever by a hooker in Super Rugby.
Duncan Paia’aua briefly took the wind out of the Brumbies’ sails, before Lealiifano scored off a Cubelli break. Cubelli dived over for one of his own 10 minutes later.
Lausii Taliauli sealed the bonus point with five minutes remaining.
The Brumbies travel to Auckland next week to face the Blues, while the Reds host the Chiefs.