SUBLIME piece of skill from Brumbies flyer helps them to victory over Highlanders

David Skippers
Andy Muirhead try Brumbies v Highlanders SRP 2024.jpg

Brumbies wing Andy Muirhead scored a spectacular try against the Highlanders.

The Brumbies clinched the final spot in Super Rugby Pacific’s semi-finals courtesy of a 32-16 victory over the Highlanders in Canberra on Saturday, with experienced wing Andy Muirhead catching the eye with a sublime piece of skill in the build-up to one of their tries.

With the score 22-16 to the Brumbies in the 47th minute, they launched an attack inside the Highlanders’ half with Noah Lolesio delivering a cross-field kick.

Muirhead gave chase but the kick was slightly ahead of him and he opted to boot the ball ahead – football style – and, despite the attentions of Highlanders fly-half Cameron Millar, he continued to dribble it before regathering and crossed for a deserved try.

That score extended his team’s lead and they went on to seal the victory which also secures them the final spot in Super Rugby Pacific‘s semi-finals along with the Hurricanes, Blues and Chiefs.

The Brumbies were full value for their win as they held the upper-hand for long periods and eventually outscored the Highlanders by four tries to one.

Muirhead and Billy Pollard scored a brace apiece and the Brumbies’ other points came via the boot of Lolesio, who finished with a 12-point haul after succeeding with three conversions and two penalties.

For the Highlanders, Jona Nareki scored a try and Millar slotted a conversion and three penalties.

Click here for scorers

The visitors held a slight edge early on and opened the scoring in the third-minute courtesy of a Millar three-pointer off the kicking tee.

The Brumbies soaked up the early pressure but were slowly getting into the game and gained the initiative in the 15th minute courtesy of a brilliant team try from Muirhead.

This, after the ball went through several pairs of before Charlie Cale gathered out wide inside the Highlanders’ 22. He was stopped in his tracks by the cover defence but did brilliantly to offload out of the back of his hand to Muirhead, who rounded off in style.

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Lolesio added the extras but the Highlanders struck back via two further penalties from Millar which meant they were leading 9-7 by the 26th minute.

The Brumbies regained the lead five minutes later when Lolesio slotted his penalty, but the visitors soon regained the lead when Nareki rounded off in the left-hand corner.

Millar made no mistake from the kicking tee but the home side did not panic and on the stroke of half-time Pollard crossed for his first try, from close quarters, which meant the Brumbies held a slender 17-16 lead at the interval.

Soon after the restart, Pollard burrowed his way over the try-line again before Muirhead showed off his football skills en route to his second five-pointer and with the score now 29-16 in their favour, the Brumbies were in control of proceedings.

The rest of the match was an arm wrestle as the Highlanders tried to narrow the gap, but they were met by a resilient defensive effort from the Brumbies, who clinched their win – and their semi-final spot – when Lolesio slotted another penalty in the 64th minute.

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The teams

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Tom Hooper, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (c), 2 Billy Pollard, 1 Harry Vella
Replacements: 16 Liam Bowron, 17 Rhys van Nek, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Ollie Sapsford

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Cameron Millar, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Billy Harmon (cc), 7 Sean Withy, 6 Oliver Haig, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Mitch Dunshea, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (cc)
Replacements: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Nikora Broughton, 21 James Arscott, 22 Jake Te Hiwi, 23 Finn Hurley

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Matt Kellahan (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)

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