The Brumbies have gone down to the Highlanders 43-17 in Dunedin tonight. The game was there for the taking at 12-10 at the break before a Waisake Naholo intercept try at the 60 minute mark with the Brumbies deep on attack against 14 men changed the game. There were three more Highlanders tries after that to blow out the final score.
With the majority of the possession in the early stages, it took the Highlanders seven minutes to score the opening points. It took some patient build up from the home side and multiple phases before Lima Sopoaga rolled his way over the tryline.
The Highlanders had an obvious plan to avoid the rushing Brumbies defence and used short kicks in behind the line to turn them around.
The Brumbies forwards ball running plan that had been starting to work well in recent weeks, started to click with Sio and Fainga’a linking up in midfield that led to a Wharenui Hawera penalty goal to make it 5-3.
David Pocock was only into his third match in 2018 but again his presence around the ruck was huge but even he couldn’t stop Ben Smith as he sliced through a poor defensive read for the Highlanders second try.
The Brumbies then worked the wide channels to get down field and Pocock looked to have scored the first Brumbies try but a look from the TMO ruled it out. They did have penalty advantage and two scrums later, Isi Naisarani barged his way over off the back and Hawera’s conversion made it 12-10.
The Highlanders had one last chance to add more points before the break, but could not as Rory Arnold monstered one maul and the scrum, that had been fairly solid to this point, earned a relieving penalty.
The home side had the first points in the second half from a Sopoaga penalty from 45 metres that came on the back of a break from deep inside their own half.
Lima Sopoaga copped a yellow card for a lifting tackle on Tom Banks but the Brumbies couldn’t punish them as Kuridrani dropped the ball in the shadows of the posts to let the Highlanders off the hook as handling errors were starting to creep into their game.
With the Brumbies forwards doing the hard yards and edging forward, Waisake Naholo undid all their hard work as he snuck in and intercepted a long pass from Hawera that probably wasn’t required and ran 80 metres untouched to make it 22-10.
The floodgates then opened for the Highlanders with Ben Smith scoring his second before Shannon Frizell finished what he started to blow the game out.
There was a late converted try to Joe Powell to reduce the margin but it was too little, too late as the Highlanders hit back with their sixth try to replacement Fletcher Smith well after the 80 minutes to run out 43-17 winners.
The Game Changer
The Naholo try. With a try for the Brumbies looming, he snuck in to make the margin 12 and then it was shut the gate from there.
The G&GR MOTM
Ben Smith. 2 tries topped off a good night for the fullback.
Tevita Kuridrani has had a very slow start to 2018 and it continued through this game and needs to lift in 2018 before the Irish series. David Pocock doesn’t look to have missed a beat and will be back in Gold in June with another big game and some important ruck burglaries.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Naisarani, Powell
Conversions: Hawera 2
Tries: B Smith 2, Sopoaga, Naholo, Frizell, F Smith
Conversions: Sopoaga 4, B Smith
52 mins – Sopoaga (Highlanders) – Yellow