A first-half hat-trick from David Pocock helped the Brumbies to a convincing 31-18 win over the Highlanders in Canberra on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The victory, built on the back of a dominant forward display, helped the hosts extend their lead at the top of the Australian conference. The Brumbies used their maul as an attacking weapon and the Highlanders simply had no response, especially during a brutal first half in which they secured the four-try bonus point.
Pocock took full advantage to notch up three tries, although these could just as well be credited to the Brumbies entire forward pack. Such was the Brumbies domination, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph decided to replace his front row in the 35th minute of the match.
By then, the damage had been done, and the Highlanders trailed 31-6.
The Brumbies' lead came courtesy of a fifth-minute try from Henry Speight and Pocock's efforts on the back of the Brumbies maul, while two Lima Sopoaga penalties was all the visitors could muster during a dismal first-half showing.
How Joseph would've loved to be able to call on the All Blacks trio of Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Malakai Fekitoa (who were rested) as the Highlanders looked to turn things around in the second half.
As it was, the Highlanders showed some ticker in the second stanza, keeping the Brumbies scoreless, while notching up two tries of their own through Shaun Treeby and Dan Pryor.
However, the deficit proved too much to overcome, as the Brumbies continued their recent domination over the men from Dunedin.
The bonus-point triumph gets the Brumbies' title ambitions back on track after a surprise home reverse against the Rebels last weekend, while the Highlanders will look to regroup before hosting the Sharks in Dunedin next weekend.
Brumbies – Tries: Henry Speight, David Pocock (3). Conversions: Christian Leali'ifano (4). Penalty: Leali'ifano.
Highlanders – Tries: Shaun Treeby, Dan Pyor. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga. Penalties: Sopoaga (2).
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Jordan Smiler, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Rod Iona, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Highlanders – 15 Trent Renata, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Richard Buckman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Pryor, 22 Josh Renton, 23 Jason Emery.
Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images