SIMON BORCHARDT reports on the Brumbies’ 33-26 victory in Canberra that brought the Highlanders’ four-match winning streak to a halt.
Jake White’s side raced out to a 17-3 lead after 20 minutes, but the Highlanders fought back well to make it 26-26 early in the second half. However, the loss of flyhalf Colin Slade, who appeared to break an ankle, broke the visitors’ momentum and they conceded a soft try on the 60-minute mark that proved to be decisive.
The Highlanders will also regret the poor start they made to the game, when centre Tamati Ellison’s pass was intercepted by Joe Tomane, who ran 80m to score.
The winger struck again 10 minutes later when the Brumbies, who had been starved of possession, sent the ball wide from a turnover. Midfielder Andrew Smith was put into space on the left and found Tomane, who cut back inside for his double.
Slade, who had earlier kicked a drop goal, exchanged penalties with opposite number Christian Lealiifano, before a break from winger Hosea Gear led to a try for scrumhalf Aaron Smith that reduced the deficit to four.
But Lealiifano’s third penalty, on the half-time hooter, gave the hosts a 20-13 lead despite them having had just 33% of the ball.
It didn’t take the Highlanders long to level the scores when, following a penalty goal apiece, Shaun Treeby was brought to ground but not held by the tackler. The centre jumped back up to his feet and ran away to score next to the posts.
At that stage it looked as if the visitors were on track for win No 5. But then Slade left the field and they conceded that soft try after losing possession at a maul near their 22. Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore got boot to ball and flanker Michael Hooper picked it up to score what was ultimately the match-winning try.