Highlanders advance in Super Rugby with 15-9 win over ACT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Winger Waisake Naholo and No. 8 Liam Squire scored the only tries of the match and the Highlanders defended strongly late in the second half for a 15-9 win over the ACT Brumbies in a Super Rugby quarterfinal Friday.
Leading 10-6 at halftime, the Dunedin, New Zealand-based side repelled numerous scoring threats in the closing minutes to win their first match in Canberra in 10 years
It was the only match Friday. To complete the quarterfinals on Saturday, three other New Zealand teams have a chance to advance to the semifinals.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes, who finished the regular season in first place, host the Durban-based Sharks. Later in South Africa, the Lions play the seven time-champion Crusaders in Johannesburg and the Cape Town-based Stormers take on the Chiefs.
The result means Australia will be without a team in the semifinals for the first time in four years.
It marked the end of the ACT careers of co-captain and Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore, playmaker Matt Toomua and star flanker David Pocock, who returned from a six-week injury layoff from a fractured eye socket.
Moore is heading back to the Queensland Reds next season, Toomua is joining English side Leicester and Pocock is beginning a 12-month sabbatical.
The Brumbies, who finished first in the Australian conference, were denied a potentially match-winning effort in the 75th minute, with replays showing insufficient evidence to award Lausii Taliauli a five-pointer. Their points came only from three penalty goals by Christian Leali'ifano.
Under slick conditions due to persistent rain showers, dropped balls, wayward kicks and penalties denied both sides a chance to play free-flowing rugby.
It initially worked in the Brumbies' favor, with the hosts taking a 6-3 lead off a pair of penalty goals despite a lack of possession and field position.
The Highlanders took the lead with a converted try to Naholo in the 37th minute after Toomua was sent to the sin-bin for repeated offenses close to the line.
Just one point separated the sides until the 57th minute, when Squire's try sealed the victory.
"I thought we defended well in the second half, but we didn't take our chances," Moore said.