The Highlanders have extended their winning streak over Canberra’s Brumbies to four straight wins after beating the 2018 side 43-17 with a bonus point at the Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin.
The Highlanders have now not lost to the Brumbies since 2015 after recent wins in Canberra (two) and Invercargill.
Ironically the loss ends a three match winning streak for the Brumbies in Dunedin as the last time they lost in the Southern city was in 2005.
The Highlanders outscored the Brumbies by six tries to two with All Blacks fullback Ben Smith crossing the line twice.
Although the scoreline shows a difference of 26 points and four more tries for the hosts the match was a lot closer than the it would appear on paper.
The Highlanders scrum struggled heavily in the opening half which cost the hosts several opportunities and kept the Brumbies in the match at the start.
Shortly before the half hour mark the Brumbies had been awarded four penalties and the Highlanders none.
Lima Sopoaga scored the opening try of the match in the sixth minute but he was unable to convert.
Twenty minutes later Sopoaga set up Ben Smith for the first of his two tries with a long pass outwide to the All Black fullback. Smith cut back and wrong footed the Brumbies defence and scored next to the posts.
The Brumbies closed the gap on the scoreboard before the break when Isi Naisarani broke from the back of the scrum and scored under the posts.
Wharenui Hawera added the conversion and with his earlier penalty in the 15th minute the Brumbies were within two points at 12-10.
Sopoaga again opened the scoring in the second half but 11 minutes into the half he was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Brumbies fullback Tom Banks.
The Brumbies used the extra man advantage to the fullest and made up almost 60 metres which got them into the Highlanders 22. As they started to look really dangerous Waisake Naholo picked up a crucial intercept pass and raced to the far end of the field and scored.
Ben Smith converted the try which turned out to be the turning point in the match as it lifted the Highlanders and from this point the Brumbies started to struggle.
Minutes later the Highlanders created a four man overlap and sent Shannon Frizzel in for the home side’s fourth try.
The Brumbies scored a consolation try when Joe Powell crossed the line in the 73rd minute and Hawera added the conversion.
Highlanders replacement Kayne Hammington almost scored again for the hosts but the brumbies scrambled in defence and stopped the attack.
When the siren sounded the Brumbies played on looking to cut down on their points differential but after 5 phases the Highlanders turned the ball over and moved the ball across the field until a gap opened for Fletcher Smith who scored the Highlanders sixth try in the 82nd minute.
Sopoaga added the conversion from in front to end the scoring and the match.
Next week in Round 10 the Highlanders play the Blues in Auckland and the Brumbies host the Jaguares at home in Canberra on Sunday.
Final Score Highlanders 43 (12) Brumbies 17 (10)
Tries – L.Sopoaga, B.Smith 2, W.Naholo, S.Frizzel, F.Smith
Pen – L.Sopoaga
Con – L.Sopoaga 4, B.Smith
Cards – L.Sopoaga (51st min yellow)
Tries – I.Naisarani, J.Powell
Pen – W.Hawera
Con – W.Hawera 2
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman
TMO : Glenn Newman
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown,2. Liam Coltman,3. Siate Tokolahi,4. Jackson Hemopo,5. Tom Franklin,6. Shannon Frizell,7. Dillon Hunt,8. Luke Whitelock,9. Aaron Smith,10. Lima Sopoaga,11. Tevita Li,12. Teihorangi Walden,13. Rob Thompson,14. Waisake Naholo,15. Ben Smith (cc)
Replacements : 16. Ash Dixon (cc),17. Aki Seiuli,18. Kalolo Tuiloma,19. Alex Ainley,20. Elliot Dixon,21. Kayne Hammington,22. Fletcher Smith,23. Matt Faddes
15 Tom Banks, 14 James Dargaville, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano (co-captain), 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 (co-captain), 20 Michael Oakman-Hunt, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Andrew Smith