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Highlanders snap losing streak to Brumbies

Matt Toomua gets wrapped up in the Highlanders defence

Super Rugby champions the Highlanders got back to winning ways by beating the Brumbies 23-10 at Invercargill.

The Highlanders victory ends a three match losing streak to the Brumbies and a two match losing streak this season after losses to the Reds and Sharks.

The Highlanders outscored the Brumbies by two tries to one but ironically it was the Highlanders defence that won the match for them.

The result also means that the Brumbies have lost back to back matches as they also lost to the Crusaders last weekend.

Former All Black Lima Sopoaga scored 18 of the Highlanders points including three vital penalties late in the game.

But while the fly-half was the point-scoring hero, the victory was also a credit to Highlanders stubborn defence after the Brumbies had them on the back foot for much of the game.

The Highlanders side were forced to make 160 tackles to 37 for the Brumbies who won the rucks and maul count 145-38.

“In that first half the Brumbies had a lot of momentum but couldn’t turn it into points. Our defence was really good and we managed to keep them out,” Highlanders skipper Ben Smith said.

“What we pride ourselves on is our defence and being able to work really hard for each other and get to the spots we need our mates to get to.”

Both sides entered the clash at Super Rugby’s southern-most outpost desperate to snap out of mid-season slumps.

Despite the slippery ball resulting in handling errors, there was a willingness to play at pace although points were not easy to come by in the tight first half.

The Brumbies, having tried and failed with three lineout drives when Sam Carter was penalised each time for obstruction, hit the front 3-0 with a Christian Lealiifano penalty after 15 minutes.

It was not until the stroke of half-time that the Highlanders turned the scoreboard to go into the break with a 7-3 lead.

A well-weighted Ben Smith kick forced the Brumbies onto their own line where they conceded a five-metre scrum and a long Aaron Smith pass put Sopoaga outside three defenders and he crossed unopposed for the try.

Ben Smith stretched the lead to 14-3 early in the second half touching down after Malakai Fekitoa bumped off an attempted Tevita Kuridrani tackle.

But the Brumbies were not done and found the answer to their rolling maul woes was to throw to Carter in the lineout rather than use him as a block and the big lock duly obliged by winning the ball for hooker Josh Mann-Rea to score.

At 14-10 to the Highlanders with 30 minutes to play the outcome was in the balance before a succession of infringements by the Brumbies allowed Sopoaga to stretch the difference to a comfortable margin.

Next week in Round 11 Highlanders play the Chiefs in Hamilton and the Brumbies host the Bulls in Canberra.

Final Score Highlanders 23 (7) Brumbies 10 (3) 

Scorers

Highlanders
Tries – L.Sopoaga, B.Smith
Pen – L.Sopoaga 3
Con – L.Sopoaga
Drop –
Cards – J.Wilson (10th min yellow)

Brumbies
Tries – J.Mann-Rea
Pen – C.Lealiifano
Con – C.Lealiifano
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1:Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO : Aaron Paterson

Teams

Highlanders

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 2. Ash Dixon , 3. Josh Hohneck , 4. Alex Ainley , 5. Tom Franklin , 6. Elliot Dixon , 7. Shane Christie (CC) , 8. Liam Squire , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Rob Thompson , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Jack Wilson , 15. Ben Smith (CC)

Replacements : , 16. Greg Pleasants-Tate , 17. Craig Millar , 18. Siosiua Halanukonuka , 19. Joe Wheeler , 20. Dan Pryor , 21. Fumiaki Tanaka , 22. Hayden Parker , 23. Matt Faddes

Brumbies

Allan Alaalatoa , Josh Mann-Rea , Ruan Smith , Tom Staniforth , Sam Carter , Scott Fardy , David Pocock , Jarrad Butler , Tomás Cubelli , Christian Lealiifano (c) , Robbie Coleman , Matt Toomua , Tevita Kuridrani , Nigel Ah Wong , Aidan Toua

Replacements : Robbie Abel , Scott Sio , Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin , Rory Arnold , Lausii Taliauli , Jordan Smiler , Joe Powell , James Dargaville