VIDEO: Highlanders blitz willing Brumbies
The Highlanders stretched their unbeaten home run to 10 matches with their 43-17 win over their Australian rivals in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Highlanders held a slender 15-10 lead after a very tight first hour. Yen minutes later the home team was leading 36-10.
From then on the Brumbies were playing for pride only.
The Highlanders – picked up a bonus point with their six tries to two victory – bounced back from two consecutive losses to reignite their play-off hopes.
The game swung midway through the second half when the Highlanders, leading 15-10 but down to 14 men with Lima Sopoaga in the sin bin, scored three tries in 10 minutes.
Waisake Naholo ignited the spree with an intercept as the Brumbies swarmed towards the line, and he sprinted the length of the field to score.
It eased the pressure on the Highlanders, who followed up with tries to Ben Smith and Shannon Frizzel to open up that 36-10 lead.
Joe Powell scored for the Brumbies and Fletcher Smith for the Highlanders in the helter-skelter closing minutes.
"We lost our way a bit in that second half," Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano said.
"Obviously that intercept hurt us,: he added.
Highlanders captain Ben Smith admitted they were aided by the intercept.
"When the game gets a bit unstructured that's what we like," Smith said.
Man of the match: You seldom have to look much further than David Pocock. Rory Arnold was another massive contributor to the Brumbies' cause. The work of the entire Highlanders – against a very impressive Brumbies set of forwards – has to be applauded. However, it is the creativity and ability of the Highlanders duo to read the game of Ben and Aaron Smith that caused the most damage – with fullback Ben Smith winning our award.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Sopoaga, B Smith 2, Naholo, Frizell, F Smith
Cons: Sopoaga 5
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Naisarani, Powell
Cons: Hawera 2
Yellow card: Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders, 51 – foul play, spear tackle)
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Alex Ainley, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 James Dargaville, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Matt Lucas, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Michael Oakman-Hunt, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Andrew Smith
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Doleman (New Zealand),, James Munroe (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)