Five things we learnt from ACT Brumbies - Highlanders

Sat, Jun 8, 2024, 11:23 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

The ACT Brumbies are back in the semi-finals after a strong 32-16 win over the Highlanders in Canberra.

The hosts survived a first-half surge and a struggling scrum to ensure Australian representation in the final four.

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So what did we learn?

1. Australia's team

For the third year in a row, the Brumbies are left to fly the flag for the Australian sides.

There was pressure on them to avoid an all-Kiwi semi final after the Rebels and Reds went down earlier in the weekend but they never panicked, even when they were down just before half time.

It sets up a rematch with the Blues from the 2022 semi-final where the ACT side nearly pulled off the upset in Auckland, with Lolesio’s drop goal attempt to win it late charged down.

This is a Brumbies side that will back themselves to show they have significantly improved from April’s thumping loss in Auckland.

2. A great Toole in the Wright backline 

The combination of Corey Toole and Tom Wright is near unstoppable for opposition teams and they were at their brilliant best tonight in Canberra.

Wright is playing with ultimate confidence at the moment and he always looks like he’s going to create something out of nothing, like the perfect pass to Charlie Cale to set up the first try. The 50-22 he nailed with 12 minutes to go showed this amid his best Super Rugby season.

As for Toole, he was nearly gifted a try in the opening minutes by Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and kept the pressure on the Highlanders' defence.

If Joe Schmidt is eager to pick only from Australia, the Brumbies duo are becoming hard to ignore.

3. Muirhead goes full Messi

Andy Muirhead produced a piece of magic that even Lionel Messi would be pleased with.

The winger found himself auditioning for a future Canberra United side when he controlled a Noah Lolesio cross-field kick perfectly to regather and score.

Muirhead doesn’t have the pace or flair of his other back three members but has that special finishing ability that makes him valuable for any side.

His finish in the 15th minute for the opening try was a perfect demonstration of a winger keeping their shape and being in the right position to strike.

4. Scrum problems persist

The Brumbies need James Slipper back ASAP as they were outmuscled at scrum-time.

Harry Vella was solid last weekend but was no match for the Highlanders as they targeted the young prop.

There were four penalties in the first 25 minutes and it was the main thing keeping the Highlanders in the game.

The Brumbies were able to solidfy it in the second half but they can't afford a similar fate in Auckland

Slipper said on the broadcast he’s expected to be ready for next week’s clash with the Blues, which will be music to the Brumbies’ ears

5. Bombs away

The Brumbies built their win off a targeted ploy to pepper the Highlanders’ back three with kicks.

Noah Lolesio’s kicking was excellent as the Brumbies kept winning their ball back to control territory in the second half.

It helps to have a freak like Charlie Cale back in the side, using his sizeable frame and athleticism to get high and over the top of the Highlanders.

Cale keeps building his resume as a Wallabies bolter, setting up Muirhead for the opening try as he broke away from the defence before drawing the fullback.