It’s a sad end for Moore as Highlanders leave Canberra ‘stoked’
THE reigning champion Highlanders held on for a 15-9 victory over the Brumbies on a wet and windy night in Canberra yesterday to become the first team to reach the Super Rugby semi-finals.
Tries either side of halftime from wing Waisake Naholo and No 8 Liam Squire and five points from the boot of flyhalf Lima Sopoaga were enough to send the Highlanders into the last four and end Australian interest in the competition.
The Brumbies had three penalties from flyhalf Christian Lealiifano but struggled for penetration in attack and were unable to convert the few chances they created into tries, even when camped on the Highlanders line for the last seven minutes.
“It was always going to be tough coming over here and we’re stoked we’re into the semi-finals,” said Highlanders captain Shane Christie.
“The whole game was a battle ... the last 15 minutes we just dug in and the boys showed great character.”
Conditions more reminiscent of the far south of New Zealand than the Australian capital ensured the contest would not be a great spectacle, and it was a Sopoaga interception just before the hour mark that proved decisive.
As the Brumbies, trailing by a point at 10-9, went through a set move from an attacking lineout, the two-cap All Black stole in to snatch the ball before releasing centre Matt Faddes for a run to the line.
Faddes did not have enough pace to outrun the cover defence, but the Highlanders recycled the ball quickly and Sopoaga and fullback Ben Smith got it into the hands of Squire, who crashed over.
Replacement wing Lausii Taliauli thought he had scored a try that would have brought the home side back to within a point with seven minutes left on the clock and a conversion to come.
However, the TV review offi- cial was unable to confirm a grounding.
The Brumbies then laid siege to the visitors’ line but were unable to get the ball across it, despite a series of attacking scrums and multiple phases.
“Disappointing, we had our chances there at the end but just could not get across the line,” said captain Stephen Moore, who was playing his last match for the Brumbies before leaving to join the Reds next season.
“It was a tight game in tough conditions but it comes down to those small moments. You’ve got to take every opportunity and we didn’t.” – Reuters
IS IT THE BOOTS? Patrick Osbourne breaks free at GIO Stadium yesterday.