The Brumbies have gone down 33-12 to the Highlanders on an unlucky night at GIO Stadium in their final game of the 2021 season.
An Aaron Smith masterclass was the difference on the night, the All Blacks scrumhalf with two tries sparking the visitors win, which has propelled them into a likely Harvey Norman Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Grand Final berth.
The Highlanders had everything to play for with a finals spot in their sites, but it was the Brumbies who would draw first blood.
A bustling run from Rob Valetini up the middle of the park, the backrower being one of the standout performers on the night and throughout the season, got the move going and some slick hands from Irae Simone saw Len Ikitau cross in the corner.
That try certainly sparked the visitors, as they scored the next two tries.
Ash Dixon crossed first, off a rolling drive, before Smith got his first of the night off a cracking offload from winger, Jona Nareki.
The Brumbies continued to push however and forced a few penalties from the Highlanders inside their 22m.
The Highlanders, one of the best mauling sides in Super Rugby, wouldn’t crack on the first two occasions, but eventually the Brumbies drive was too powerful, and Lachlan Lonergan dived in for the second try.
Bayley Kuenzle’s conversion made it 14-12 and that’s how it stayed heading into the break.
While luck didn’t favour the Brumbies in the second half, the Highlanders came out with a real determination to grab the win.
Smith scooted in for his double, before a brilliant move at the lineout minutes later made it a two-try difference, Billy Harmon crashing over.
The Brumbies continued to push, but the final product eluded them, and the Highlanders pounced on every error, Sio Tomkinson the next and last to cross for the visitors, the final score 33-12.
Brumbies 12 (T: Ikitau, L Lonergan; C: Kuenzle) def by Highlanders 33 (T: Dixon, Smith 2, Harmon, Tomkinson; C: Hunt 4)