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Brumbies too strong for Highlanders

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Apr 2013     Getty Images

The Highlanders suffered their seventh consecutive loss of the season before a subdued home crowd of 11, 835, defensive lapses proving costly for them in the first hour.

The Brumbies were well-drilled and patient and scored three tries to one to achieve their sixth win of the campaign.

There was nothing spectacular about their rugby but they played as a unit while the Highlanders, among whom flankers TJ Ioane and John Hardie were outstanding, were guilty of playing as individuals.

The Brumbies started the match in second place on 29 points while the winless Highlanders were anchored in bottom place on six.

The Brumbies had won 10 of the 17 previous games against the Highlanders, including a 33-26 win in Canberra last year.

Coach Jamie Joseph made six changes to the Highlanders in a bid to break their losing streak with Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka and TJ Ioane all making their run-on debuts.

The Brumbies made the best possible start, moving the ball to the right wing where Henry Speight beat Hosea Gear easily and stepped inside Ben Smith to score a nice try.

Christian Lealiifano converted well and then kicked a 45m penalty for the Brumbies to lead 10-0 after six minutes.

But the Highlanders were given some encouragement five minutes later when Parker kicked his first points at Super level, a ruck penalty from 45m, and he kicked another after 16 minutes to cut the deficit to one point.

The Highlanders strung together some good phases and Parker kicked his third penalty after 22 minutes to trail 9-10.

The Brumbies extended their lead to 17-9 after 31 minutes when the forwards drove on Sam Carter from a 5m lineout and flanker George Smith crashed over to score, Lealiifano converting.

The Highlanders were denied three minutes before halftime when Gear was judged to have lost the ball forward as he stretched out for the line to the dismay of the home crowd. It was a controversial decision by TMO Keith Brown.

Parker kicked his fourth penalty on the stroke of halftime but the Highlanders were fortunate to be only five points behind at 12-17.

Their defence looked particularly flimsy at times and the Brumbies seemed the much more organised side.

Jason Emery replaced Kade Poki for the second half after the winger left the field just before the break with a recurrence of a rib injury.

The Brumbies scored first when halfback Nic White kicked a long-range penalty to extend the lead to 20-12 and, when the Highlanders infringed at a scrum after eight minutes, Lealiifano was on target from 30m to make it 23-12.

All Black Aaron Smith was injected into the game early in the second spell in an attempt to lift the Highlanders but fortune went the other way with the Brumbies scoring their third try.

Phil Burleigh was upended in a tackle and left wing Joe Tomane gathered the loose ball and sprinted 40m to the posts, Lealiifano's conversion making it 30-12.

The Highlanders hammered away on attack and finally had reward after five minutes from the end when Aaron Smith darted over from a ruck. Parker converted and it was 30-19.

Scorers were:

Highlanders 19

Tries: A Smith.

Cons: Parker.

Pens: Parker 4.

Brumbies 30

Tries: Speight, George Smith, Tomane.

Cons: Lealiifano 3.

Pens: Lealiifano, 2, White.

Halftime: Brumbies 17-12.