Brumbies beat Highlanders 28-17 in Super Rugby Pacific

April 24, 2022 GMT

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Flyhalf Noah Lolesio returned from injury to score a try among a career-best 18 points as the ACT Brumbies beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 28-17 Sunday to give an Australian team a rare win over a New Zealand rival in Super Rugby.

New Zealand-based teams won the first three matches in the first trans-Tasman “Super Round” of games in Super Rugby Pacific that saw all five matches played over three days in Melbourne.

Australian teams won only two of 26 matches in the trans-Tasman Super Rugby tournament last year but the Brumbies’ hard-fought win on Sunday hinted at better things.

“It was a tough one,” Brumbies captain Nic White said. “We got away to a good start but we knew the momentum was going to change.

“The good Kiwi sides can do that. The Highlanders can hurt you from everywhere so they made us work for it. But I was super proud of our willingness just to work hard, roll up the sleeves and get into it.”

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Tries to Jahrome Brown and Lachlan Lonergan, both converted by Lolesio, gave the Brumbies a 14-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The Highlanders hit back with a try to center Thomas Umaga-Jensen but a penalty to Lolesio gave the Brumbies a 17-7 lead at halftime.

Lolesio extended the lead to 20-7 with his second penalty in the 44th minute before the Highlanders again closed the gap with a try to James Lentjes.

Another penalty to Lolesio stretched the Brumbies’ lead to 23-14 in the 58th minute. The Highlanders again narrowed the lead to six points with a penalty to flyhalf Mitch Hunt.

Lolesio’s try in the 72nd minute was decisive, putting the Brumbies ahead 28-17 and leaving the Highlanders needing to score twice to win.

Strong Brumbies defense thwarted their late attacks.

“This was a tough one for us to digest,” Hunt said. “We had a good week and felt really confident coming over here to play these guys.

“But we were under no illusions that this was going to be an easy game. A lot of little things tonight let us down.”

The Christchurch-based Crusaders made it 4-1 to New Zealand teams when they overcame a poor first half to beat the Melbourne Rebels 42-17 in the last match of the round.

The Crusaders only led 7-3 after a first half in which they had 80 percent of possession and an abundance of opportunities but made too many handling errors to get the ball over the Rebels’ line. The Rebels defense on their home ground was fierce and disruptive.

With more focus in the second half, the Crusaders ran in five tries to two to take a comfortable, bonus point victory. Winger Leicester Fainga’anuku was prominent as the Crusaders finally battered down the Rebels’ defensive wall.

“We created a lot of opportunities and I think the boys got a bit excited,” Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga said. “We weren’t clinical, we left a few (tries) out there but I was happy with the way the boys came back.”

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