Brumbies book place in semi-final after overcoming Highlanders

Brumbies book place in semi-final after overcoming Highlanders

By Rashika Kumar
Sunday 09/06/2024
Photo: Rugby Australia

The ACT Brumbies have surged into the Shop n Save Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals after beating Highlanders 32-16 to secure a date with destiny against the high-flying Blues in Auckland.

This win completes an undefeated home campaign with a perfect 10-from-10 record at GIO Stadium this year.

The Brumbies had stars across the park but no one was more influential than reigning John Eales Medallist Rob Valetini, who was enormous at the breakdown and typically powerful with ball in hand.

The Highlanders had opened the scoring with a second-minute penalty goal from Cameron Millar following a Brumbies scrum infringement.

But the Brumbies proceeded to dominate for most of the first half, with centre Len Ikitau and speedy winger Corey Toole both going close to scoring off Tom Wright kicks.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Highlanders yielded and there was no denying Andy Muirhead in the 15th minute when the Brumbies spread the ball beautifully from the left all the way across to the right winger to finish.

Only Brumbies ill-discipline and turnovers kept the Highlanders in the contest as two more Millar penalty goals nudged the visitors into a 9-7 lead.

Noah Lolesio wrestled the advantage back briefly with a Brumbies penalty goal, only for the Highlanders to strike back with a try to winger Jona Nareki.

After four lead changes, the Brumbies deservedly had the final say of the half when hard-working hooker Billy Pollard crashed his way over to give the home side a 17-16 buffer at the break.

If the result was in doubt after Pollard bagged his second early in the second half, it didn't look so when classy winger Muirhead showed Lionel Messi-like dribbling skills to complete his own double off a Lolesio cross-field kick in the 46th minute to extend the Brumbies' lead to 13 points.

It was certainly all over when Lolesio slotted a second penalty to finish the night's scoring - and the Highlanders' season.

But their reward is a dubious one.

Stephen Larkham's benchmark Australian outfit must beat the Blues away from their home fortress for the first time in more than a decade to keep their hopes of snapping a 20-year title drought alive.

The Blues have not only won the past five encounters between the two sides at Australian rugby's historical burial ground since 2013, but also thrashed the Brumbies 46-7 in a record-setting victory at Eden Park last time around in April.

The Brumbies take on the Blues at 7.05pm on Friday while the Hurricanes take on the Chiefs at 4.35pm on Saturday.

Source: rugby.com.au

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