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Brumbies go back to the top

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 09:22
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Highlanders winless and rooted to the bottom

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The Brumbies bounced back from last week's disappointment to beat the hapless Highlanders 30-19 in Dunedin on Friday.

It is a victory, against the winless and bottom-placed Highlanders, that saw the Brumbies swiftly return to the top of the Super Rugby standings.

The Brumbies used the kicking game to great effect - with their first try, inside three minutes, coming after the Highlanders  failed to control one of these many high bombs.

And the visitors further compounded the Highlanders' problems with their effective chasing of these kicks.

In the second half the Highlanders attempted to keep the ball more in hand and run at the Brumbies, but a combination of their own poor handling and effective defence by the visitors held the home team at bay.

The problem for the Highlanders was that they tried to force the game, playing a style they are unfamiliar with and hoping for a moment of magic - but that spark never came.

The Brumbies, in contrast, were very comfortable with the conservative approach that had earned them so many victories this season.

The visitors completely dominated the contact areas and the Highlanders' bigger and older players - like Andrew Hore, Brad Thorn, Jamie Mackintosh and Ma'a Nonu - had no answer to this physicality.

The Brumbies got off to a flyer - Henry Speight scoring the opening try after just three minutes, a move that started when Hosea Gear failed to collect an aerial bomb and the Brumbies took it through a few quick phases, before slick handling put Speight into space. Christian Lealiifano added the extras - 7-0.

Within minutes George Smith won a penalty for the visitors just inside the Highlanders' half, by getting to his feet very quickly and then latching onto the ball in a tackle. Christian Lealiifano made it 10-0 after just five minutes.

Hayden Parker eventually managed to open the home team's account in the 11th minute, after the Brumbies went offside just inside their own half. The rookie flyhalf made it 6-10 with a second penalty after 16 minutes and 9-10 after 22, following a succession of penalties against the Brumbies at the tackle.

George Smith got the Brumbies' second try - coming after he broke away from a disintegrating maul and a fractured defence. Lealiifano made it 17-9 just  after the half-hour mark.

Hosea Gear was denied a try, when the TMO ruled that he lost control of the ball over the line three minutes from the half-time break.

There was a late penalty shot for Parker, after yet another transgression at the tackle, making it 12-17 at the half-time break.

Nic White - who always takes the long-range kicks at goal - opened the second-half scoring, a penalty from just on 50 metres out after the Highlanders were penalised at the tackle. That became 23-12 when Lealiifano kicked a penalty after a scrum infringement by the Highlanders.

Joe Tomane got the third try after 54 minutes - when he sprinted 50 metres after picking up a ball knocked loose in a big tackle. Lealiifano added the conversion - 30-12

Nic White had a chance to stretch the lead further from about 55 metres out, but this time he was just short. Lealiifano was also short going into the final quarter, but the Brumbies were still well in control on the scoreboard.

The Highlanders worked hard at getting back in the game and Aaron Smith eventually found a small hole in a rock-solid Brumbies defensive line to slip over for his team's first try. Parker added the conversion to make it an 11-point game with four minutes left on the clock.

And the home team now threw everything into attack in the hope of salvaging a late losing bonus point as consolation. However, the Highlanders' hands again let them down inside the Brumbies 22 - allowing the visitors a convincing and deserved win.

Man of the match: Henry Speight had probably his best game of the season and upstaged All Black Hosea Gear, while captain Ben Mowen was a monster in the contact areas. The biggest damage was certainly done on defence and at the  breakdown - where veteran George Smith again showed his class. He is going to be missed by the Brumbies when he returns to Japan in the near future - especially with David Pocock still out injured. Smith wins our award.

The scorers:

For the Highlanders:
Tries:
A Smith
Cons: Parker
Pens: Parker 4

For the Brumbies:
Tries:
Speight, Smith, Tomane
Cons: Lealiifano 3
Pens: Lealiifano 2, White

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 John Hardie, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Jason Emery.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
TMO: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

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