RugbyU: Brumbies stay top, pile more misery on Highlanders

The ACT Brumbies bounced back from a below-par performance last week by beating the hapless Otago Highlanders 30-19 in their Super 15 clash in Dunedin on Friday.

In the clash of the top side against the bottom, the Brumbies ensured they stayed at the head of the table while the Highlanders suffered their seventh consecutive loss to remain winless for the season and firmly in last place.

At the end of the first quarter the Highlanders must have sensed they had a chance to break their duck as they trailed by one point at 9-10.

But it was the Brumbies who stepped up a gear to erase the bleak memories hanging around from last week's 28-all draw with competition newcomers Southern Kings.

By half-time they had eased away to a 17-12 lead and piled on a further 13 unanswered points in the second spell before Aaron Smith scored a consolation try for the Highlanders in the closing minutes.

Brumbies kicker Christian Lealiifano, the most prolific points scorer in Super rugby so far this year, landed three conversions and two penalties for a match tally of 12 points, taking him to 99 for the season.

The Highlanders had a malfunctioning lineout to blame for igniting both Brumbies tries in the first half.

A deep kick from a lineout turnover in the opening minute was spilled by Hosea Gear returning the ball back to the Brumbies, whose try-scoring ace Henry Speight scored in the corner.

Another lost lineout in the 30th minute allowed the Brumbies to pressure the Highlanders down the left-hand touch, which resulted in a try to George Smith.

Lealiifano converted both and added a penalty while Hayden Parker kept the Highlanders in the hunt with four penalties.

With a long-range penalty option on offer soon after the start of the second half, scrum-half Nic White took over the kicking duties and earned three points for the Brumbies from 50-metres out.

Lealiifano resumed the kicking with a close range penalty and the conversion of a try by Joe Tomane, which again originated from turnover ball.

Highlanders outside centre Phil Burleigh lost possession in a crunching tackle by his opposite Andrew Smith and Tomane was on hand to gather up the ball and sprint 55 metres unopposed to the line.

The Brumbies now return to Australia to play the Queensland Reds in Brisbane next Saturday while the Highlanders are away to their neighbouring rivals the Canterbury Crusaders.