Highlanders vs Brumbies: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Brumbies were relegated to a 43-17 loss to the Highlanders.

What are we talking about after that one?

1. Half chances prove the most painful

The Brumbies couldn't quite quell the Highlanders. Photo; Getty ImagesThe Brumbies chipped away and chipped away at territory against the Highlanders but it took just one misjudged pass from Wharenui Hawera for everything to unravel for the visitors. It’s a harsh lesson that Aussie teams have had to learn far too many times. And it’s a big reason why Australian teams are 0-34 against their Kiwi Super Rugby counterparts going back to May 27, 2016 when the Waratahs beat the Chiefs.

2. Set piece still squarely in Brumbies’ arsenal

The Brumbies may have lost on Saturday night but there was one area that they really matched it with the Kiwis, and it will surprise no one. The Brumbies’ set piece was a true weapon for them, particularly early on, winning crucial scrum penalties. Rory Arnold was an absolute beast in their maul, crucial for the Brumbies to stay in the game.

3. Pocock a breakdown pest

His delayed start to the season might have polarised fans, but David Pocock is certainly paying back the Brumbies’ faith this season. He was a force against the Highlanders, with three turnovers and seven tackles. Went painfully close to scoring a try at the half-hour mark, but that was disallowed. Even when the game was well out of reach, Pocock was deep in pilfer mode, stopping the Highlanders from adding on even more pain.

4. Kuridrani under pressure

It wasn’t long ago that Tevita Kuridrani was pretty much a walk-up starter for the Wallabies. Fast forward two seasons and though he had clawed his way back to a regular start, his Super Rugby form is not helping his June Series chances. He’s not having a huge defensive impact and he isn’t finishing to his usual standard either. There’s still time, but he’d have to be feeling the pressure from players like Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, though he is shaping more as a 12, and maybe even Reece Hodge, who has impressed at 13.

5.Ben Smith is back...if he ever left.

The Highlanders have the early lead. Photo: Getty ImagesBen Smith took a sabbatical in the back end of 2017, and it has paid dividends for the All Blacks veteran. The fullback was sensational for the Highlanders, scoring a double and winning crucial aerial battles throughout the night. At 31, it’s hard to believe Smith just keeps on getting better, and if you don’t believe that, then you have to at least admit he’s as good as ever. And that is very, very good.