Brumbies topple Highlanders
Tomane crosses twice to sink Otago franchise
Last Updated: 24/03/12 10:27am
The Highlanders saw their unbeaten start to the season come to an end as they lost 33-26 to the Brumbies.
Having started the season in impressive fashion, the Highlanders struggled to break down the Brumbies in Canberra.
And although the game remained finely poised throughout, it was the Brumbies who clinched the win - with their rapid start proving crucial.
Joe Tomane (2) and Michael Hooper both crossed for tries, while Christian Lealiifano weighed in with 18 points.
For the Hurricanes, Aaron Smith and Shaun Treeby scored tries, while Colin Slade added 13 points and Chris Noakes slotted over a penalty.
The Highlanders had dominated for long periods in the opening quarter - but despite having the possession and territory, the found themselves 20-3 down after 20 minutes.
First 22-year-old winger Tomane had opened his Super Rugby account with an 80m interception after four minutes. Lealiifano converted.
And although Slade replied with a drop-goal, Tomane crossed for his second on 17 minutes - with the cross-code convert showing his pace after Andrew Smith had broken away.
Again Lealiifano converted and then added a 20th-minute penalty to put the visitors in control.
Serious ankle injury
The Highlanders, though, responded well. Slade slotted over a penalty before adding the conversion for Smith's try. Slade's inside ball had freed Hosea Gear, with the winger popping the ball up to the talented scrum-half for the try.
The Brumbies had the final word of the half, though, as Lealiifano was on target with a penalty.
Slade and Lealiifano exchanged penalties at the start of the second half - however a defensive lapse from the Brumbies opened the door for the hosts. Treeby had crashed into the Brumbies defence but as he wasn't held, the centre jumped back to his feet and raced in unopposed. Slade converted to level scores.
However the game had a long delayed as the unfortunate Slade, who broke his jaw twice last season, was taken off on a stretcher with a serious ankle injury.
With play back underway, Lealiifano kicked the Brumbies back into the lead with a penalty - only for Noakes to respond with a three-pointer of his own.
The Brumbies, though, got a crucial try through Hooper just after the hour-mark - with the flanker pouncing on a loose ball in the Highlanders 22 and racing in to slide over. Lealiifano converted.
And try as they might, the Highlanders couldn't find a way back into the match.