Smith's double helps Highlanders sink Brumbies
MATCH REPORT: The Highlanders kept their hopes of reaching the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final alive with a 33-12 win over Brumbies.
*As it happened: Brumbies v Highlanders
The Australian heavyweights were hopeful of backing up last week’s win over the high-flying Hurricanes, but were outplayed on Friday in Canberra.
The bonus point win sent the men from Dunedin to the top of the ladder, with the two leading teams at the end of the round playing off in the final next Saturday.
All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith orchestrated the victory with a try in each half while he also set up another for wing Sio Tomkinson.
The Brumbies were right in the contest at half-time, trailing 12-14, but didn’t rise to the challenge in the second stanza at GIO Stadium.
Smith darted across the line from the back of the scrum to inflict the first wound in the 46th minute.
While the Brumbies pride themselves on their set-piece they were outsmarted at a five-metre line-out when the Highlanders found Billy Harmon on the short side.
And then Smith, New Zealand’s most-capped halfback, threaded a pass to Tomkinson to score their fifth try of the night and crucially put the Highlanders into bonus point territory.
The Brumbies did their best to spoil their opponents’ finals hopes with a late try but couldn’t find their way to the line.
Earlier Brumbies hooker Lachlan Lonergan boosted his Wallabies selection chances with a try from a rolling maul.
Centres Irae Simone and Len Ikitau also combined for a first-half try to press their claims for a call-up for the Test squad to face France next month.
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Ikitau, Longergan
Tries: Dixon, Smith 2, Harmon, Tomkinson
Cons: Hunt 4
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Bayley Kuenzle, 9 Nic White, 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Solomone Kata.
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan