Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Brumbies break Highlanders

Jordan Smiler of the Brumbies is tackeld by John Hardie of the Highlanders during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.
Jordan Smiler of the Brumbies is tackeld by John Hardie of the Highlanders during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.

Highlanders 19
Brumbies 30

A few of the repairs worked but the Highlanders remain a broken side.

The wreckage stacked up to seven successive defeats tonight in Dunedin as they fell 30-19 to a controlled Brumbies team.

It was a display which showed why the Brumbies lead the tournament, the Highlanders have yet to find a victory and will not fancy their luck changing next round when they tangle with the Crusaders.

Turnovers, sloppy decisions, setpiece wobbles and mistakes across the park continue to bedevil the Highlanders.

Much was made of the 10 Brumbies who were announced yesterday in the Wallaby squad to train for the Lions series but the same number of past or present All Blacks wore the Highlanders uniform last night. Most are looking past it unless they get some strong remedial training.

A shoddy start cost the Highlanders. They lost their opening lineout then the experienced Hosea Gear shelled an up and under.

Maybe that dented his confidence because in the next move, Henry Speight danced past him and fellow All Black Ben Smith for the opening try.

As Christian Leali'ifano kicked the conversion then a penalty the Highlanders had shipped 10 points in the opening six minutes. Just as quickly the result was sliding out of their grasp.

The Brumbies had the expert recycled loosie George Smith doiminating the breakdowns, they were picking off the lineouts and using fullback Jesse Mogg to kick them into the hosts' territory.

It was not very exciting but their percentage rugby, low error footy was very productive.

They were not immune to mistakes though and referee Chris Pollock penalised them four times at rucks for new Highlanders five eighths Hayden Parker to kick four fine penalties.
In between though Smith broke from a lineout drive to escape the inside defenders and bang over for the Brumbies second try.

It looked as though Gear finally had found his mojo when he popped up on the right wing, evaded several defenders and planted the ball across the line as he lay on his back.

TMO Keith Brown disagreed and the Brumbies went to the sheds with a 17-12 lead at the break.

The interval brought a change of ideas about breaking down the well-drilled Brumbies. Coach Jamie Jospeh wanted his men to run more possession to try and stress the visitors' defence.

Instead the Brumbies applied most of the pressure and when their rushing line created a loose ball, Joe Tomane collected and ran 55m for the try. When the TMo decided there had been no obvious infringement, the Brumbies had pushed out to a 30-12 advantage as they approached the last quarter.

By then Aaron Smith had replaced Fumiaki Tanaka at halfback. He had a few uneasy moments but scored a late try with a dummy and dart. What became more noticeable was that he and a rare few colleagues like TJ Ioane appeared to have any sting about their play until it was far too late.

Brumbies (Henry Speight, George Smith, Joe Tomane tries; Christian Leali'ifano 3 con, 2 pen, Nick White pen)
Highlanders (Hosea Gear, Aaron Smity, tries; Hayden Parker 3 pen, con) Halftime: 17-12.

- NZ Herald

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