Highlanders edge Brumbies in snorefest
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders managed to overturn a five-point half-time deficit to edge the Brumbies 18-13 in a poor display by both teams.
The Highlanders returned to the ground where they knocked the Brumbies out of last season's quarter-finals to overturn a 5-10 half-time deficit and extended Australian teams' misery against Kiwi opposition this season with New Zealand boasting a 7-0 winning record so far this year.
"It had a similar feel to the quarter-final last year when we were under the pump there at the end and we were able to hold out. Tonight was no different and it was a bloody tough contest.
"For us to come over here and do the job, hopefully it will kick-start our campaign and we can get a bit of a roll on," Highlanders coach Tony Brown said.
The Brumbies led 13-11 with 16 minutes left but relinquished the lead when Aki Seiuli charged over from close range to put the Highlanders in front for the first time with seven minutes remaining.
While the home side piled on the pressure in the final stages, the Highlanders held firm on their own try line to take the points.
The Brumbies looked set to keep the Highlanders scoreless in the first half until Richard Buckman gave young wing Sio Tomkinson the space to score his first Super Rugby try.
The Brumbies scored first off a well-worked set play from a line-out with flank Chris Alcock breaking through on the short side to pick up his first try for the club and open up a 10-0 lead. Wharenui Hawera made it three from three by kicking another penalty shortly after half-time to extend the Brumbies lead to eight points.
Replacement flyhalf Marty Banks reduced the deficit to five to keep the Highlanders in touch. Another Banks penalty trimmed the margin to two, setting up a grandstand finish and Seiuli's clinching try.
It was the Highlanders' second victory of the season and their third successive triumph over the Brumbies in recent seasons.
"The guys did everything right to win but sometimes it doesn't fall your way and that was the case tonight.
"There's no doubting the effort. The execution was obviously difficult in those wet conditions and once you fall behind on the scoreboard and you've got to score a try, you chance your arm a little bit more than you'd like," Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said.
Man of the match: Elliot Dixon was the only Highlander who performed admirably. Henry Speight was solid under the high balls while his defensive effort complimented his carries. Sam Carter set a good standard for his team to follow but it was Scott Fardy who secured numerous crucial turnovers that kept the opposition under pressure.
For the Brumbies:
Pens: Hawera 2
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Tomkinson, Seiuli
Pens: Banks 2
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Blake Enever, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Nathan Mayhew.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Tom Staniforth, 21 Lolo Fakaosilea, 22 De Wet Roos, 23 Jordan Jackson-Hope.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Matt Faddes.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)