Australia’s trans-Tasman drought continues, with the Brumbies going down to the Highlanders, 43-17, in Dunedin.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar wanted his side to win respect for Australian teams on their trip, and they looked like doing just that until midway through the second half, when the Highlanders scored three tries in 10 minutes to turn a five-point margin into a 26-point buffer.
Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga didn’t take long to get on the board, with a try in the seventh minute giving them a lead they never lost.
The Brumbies had a penalty and were edging their way back during the first half but it took a simple error for Ben Smith to break through and snuff out their momentum.
From there, the Highlanders only seemed to grow in confidence, but the Brumbies continued to chip away.
David Pocock continued his super form in Dunedin, with a critical early turnover, and it looked like he had scored a try to boot in the 30th minute, before the score was disallowed after an accidental offside by Isi Naisarani.
Naisarani redeemed himself just three minutes later, scoring off the back of the scrum after the Brumbies opted to attack the line off multiple advantages, closing the gap to just two points.
The Highlanders kept the scoreboard ticking over in the second half, with Sopoaga taking a penalty just after the break.
A yellow card for Sopoaga with half an hour to go, for a lifting tackle on Tom Banks, gave the Brumbies a precious personnel advantage with the game still in the balance.
The possession and territory statistics were all well in the Highlanders’ favour, but as the second half ticked on, it looked as if the Brumbies were making some headway, stringing together some phases in their opposition’s half.
And then, the Highlanders had half a sniff and all of a sudden Waisake Naholo had an intercept try and the Brumbies were in a 12-point hole with 20 minutes to go.
When Shannon Frizell collected a spectacular long-range pass to complete a team try in the 70th minute, make the margin 16 and put the result all but out of reach.
To the Brumbies’ credit, they didn’t give up, with reserve halfback Joe Powell earning a consolation with six minutes to go.
It was the Highlanders with the absolute final say, despite already bagging a bonus point, with Fletcher Smith going over in the 83rd minute to really rub it in.
The Brumbies have an eight-day break now, before hosting the Jaguares in Canberra next Sunday afternoon.
Tries: B Smiith 2, Sopoaga, Naholo, Frizell, F Smith
Cons: Sopoaga 5
Yellow Card: Sopoaga (52')
Tries: Naisarani, Powell
Cons: Hawera 2