Brumbies close in on conference top spot with win in Tokyo
THE Brumbies have moved one step closer to sealing top spot on the Australian conference in securing a vital 42-19 win over the Sunwolves at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
After the Rebels blew yet another vital match on Friday night - although they temporarily moved to the top of the conference because of a losing bonus point - the Brumbies moved five points clear of their domestic rivals.
The 23-point win lifted the Brumbies into second spot on the overall standings, two points clear of the Jaguares, who will have the chance to retake the top-two position later on Saturday night when they face the Reds in Brisbane.
Dan McKellar's men scored six tries to three to seal the win in front of a boisterous and large crowd.
As is so often the case it was the rolling maul that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
But for once it wasn't Test hooker Folau Fainga'a, the competition's leading try-scorer, who was at the end of the maul.
Instead, replacement rake Connal McInerney, only in the side after a season-ending injury to Josh Mann-Rea, scored a second-half hat-trick with all three tries coming from the back of the maul. In doing so, he became just the fifth player in the competition's history to score a hat-trick of tries coming off the bench.
His third try in the 72nd minute sealed the bonus-point win. Amusingly, McInerney was led to the tryline by Brumbies captain and playmaker Christian Lealiifano, who had joined the maul in the lead-up to the five-pointer.
Victory in Japan puts the Brumbies in the box seat to take out the Australian conference.
And with fixtures against the Waratahs and Reds to round out their regular season, the Brumbies will be eager to continue their winning momentum and secure a vital top-two finish, which would put them in the position to host a semi-final should they reach that far.