The Highlanders suffered their seventh straight Super Rugby defeat after going down to the Brumbies 30-19 in Dunedin on Friday.
The Highlanders suffered their seventh straight Super Rugby defeat of the season after going down to the Brumbies 30-19 in Dunedin on Friday.
It was the first time the Australian outfit played at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and marked the occasion by outscoring their struggling hosts three tries to nil.
The writing was on the wall for the Highlanders as early as the third minute of the match when Henry Speight powered his way over for the opening try to hand his team a lead which they never relinquished.
Highlanders pivot Hayden Parker kept the home side in touching distance with four penalties in the first half and trailed by five points at the break (12-17).
However, the desperate Kiwis were unable to add to their points tally until the 75 minute of the match when replacement scrum-half Aaron Smith went over for a consolation try.
Once again, it was too little too late for the Highlanders as the damage had already been done by their trans-Tasman rivals who now go four points clear at the top of the overal standings.
The Brumbies paid the price for taking their eye off the ball against the Kings and suffered a draw for their efforts. But any thoughts of Jake White's men making the same mistake again were quickly squashed when Speight was put into space and left three Highlanders' defenders in his dust.
Christian Lealiifano added the tricky conversion from far out, and a penalty to boot a few minutes later for a handy 10-0 lead.
Parker closed the gap with three successive penalties to make it a one-point ball game, before veteran flank George Smith was rewarded for his tireless effort with a try in the 31st minute.
Lealiifano added the extras with another tough conversion, but the Highlanders would have the last laugh before the break thanks to Parker's fourth penalty goal.
Down but not out, the Highlanders would be left to rue a poor start to the second half which saw them concede two penalties and a converted try inside 12 minutes that left them with a mountain to climb.
Nic White and Lealiifano were on song with the boot, while wing Joe Tomane scored what proved to be the match-winning try after latching on to a spilled ball by the Highlanders and raced half the lengh of the field to score under the posts.
Try: A Smith
Pens: Parker 4
Tries: Speight, G Smith, Tomane
Cons: Lealiifano 3
Pens: Lealiifano 2, White
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 John Hardie, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Jason Emery.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.
Referee: Chris Pollock