Wing Henry Speight, with two tries, was one of the driving forces for the overwhelming victory, along with the strong running of flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and a dominant forward pack.
The Lions, who are under pressure to maintain their SuperRugby status with the South African Rugby Union having guaranteed the Southern Kings promotion next year, produced an abject display and only rallied to score two tries in the final quarter to narrow the losing margin.
“I’m very happy. The way we carried the ball was so precise, we stuck with things and we put them under real pressure in the 22. We had some great stuff going on on the gain-line and things are starting to come together that we’ve been working on,” Brumbies coach Jake White said after the match.
The Brumbies went behind early to a penalty by Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies, but struck back with a 12th-minute try by prop Ruaidhri Murphy, who ploughed over the line from a ruck set up when Speight was stopped just short of the line after bursting down the blindside wing.
The visitors fell behind again, though, as Jantjies kicked another penalty four minutes later, and the Lions held on to the lead until the 22nd minute as Lealiifano and fullback Jesse Mogg missed three kicks between them.
With scrumhalf Nic White feeding them quick ball from the rucks, the Brumbies backs were a constant threat with their direct running and changes in the point of attack and Speight grabbed his first try after White’s long pass to outside centre Andrew Smith had set up a ruck, from which Lealiifano made a half-break to present the wing with an easy touchdown.
Speight was involved again as the Brumbies scored five minutes before half-time, cutting in from his wing and breaking through the porous Lions defence and popping the ball to Smith to dot down.
The lacklustre Lions had defended poorly and kicked wastefully in the first half and started the second half in even worse fashion as they conceded two tries in the first seven minutes.
Lions fullback Andries Coetzee presented wing Joe Tomane with a welcome gift try as he failed to gather a Mogg grubber and flank Michael Hooper, having hassled the Lions all game at the breakdown, then punished them from the kickoff as he burst clear and set up prop Ben Alexander for a powerful finish.
Speight scored again for the Brumbies in the 58th minute after the Lions twice presented them with turnovers in the 22, stretching the lead to an unassailable 34-6.
The situation was made worse for the Lions in the 63rd minute when replacement centre Butch James charged into a ruck with his shoulder and was yellow-carded. But the home team finished the match as the stronger side, with centre Jaco Taute and loosehead prop Caylib Oosthuizen scoring never-say-die tries at the death, both converted by Jantjies.
“It was our worst defensive performance of the season. We weren’t effective in the tackle and they hurt us with their carry and got enough breaches. They kept hold of their ball while we lost ours and they were more effective at the breakdown. I thought Hooper was outstanding, he’s world-class, that boy,” Lions coach John Mitchell said.
But the Brumbies were the stars of the show with imposing eighthman Fotu Auelua also amongst their heroes and named man of the match.
The Lions have now won just one of their eight matches and face a daunting task when they play the pace-setting Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on May 5.
The Chiefs will have the chance to extend their lead on top of the standings when they host the Wellington Hurricanes on Saturday.
Lions – Tries: Jaco Taute, Caylib Oosthuizen. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2).
Brumbies – Tries: Ruaidhri Murphy, Henry Speight (2), Andrew Smith, Joe Tomane, Ben Alexander. Conversions: Jesse Mogg, Christian Lealiifano.