Samu and Toole star in 11-try thriller as Brumbies beat Highlanders
Wallaby Pete Samu and a fleet-footed Corey Toole both bagged two tries as the ACT Brumbies edged the Otago Highlanders 48-32 Sunday to close to within five points of the table-topping Waikato Chiefs on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder.
The Canberra-based heavyweights, boasting 11 Wallabies in the starting side, made it nine wins from 11 this season with a battling victory over the New Zealanders.
Along with Samu and Toole, Len Ikitau, Jahrome Brown, and Darcy Swain also dotted down in the seven tries to four thriller to stay on course for next month's finals.
"We knew the Highlanders are a quality side and very physical," said Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa.
"I think we just let them in too easily through ill-discipline and missed tackles. But overall very pleased."
With three rounds left of the 18-week regular season, the Chiefs remain on top with 46 points despite crashing to their first defeat of the year against the Queensland Reds on Friday.
The Brumbies moved up to second with the win, edging four points clear of Wellington Hurricanes and defending champions Canterbury Crusaders.
The top four finishers earn home advantage in the quarter-finals.
Currently, the Auckland Blues, NSW Waratahs, Reds and Western Force fill out the rest of the top eight.
Defeat piled more misery on the Dunedin-based Highlanders, who have now lost five in a row to sit second last, ahead of just Moana Pasifika.
"Story of our season so far, we had some awesome moments but just don't execute on a few," said Highlanders captain Billy Harmon.
The lead repeatedly changed hands in a bruising first-half in Canberra with the visitors going to the break with a 20-19 lead thanks to a Freddie Burns penalty on the hooter.
Live-wire Brumbies scrum-half Nic White was in the thick of the action, but suffered some heavy knocks and was forced from the game five minutes before the break.
A surging run from Thomas Umaga-Jensen increased the Highlanders lead soon after the restart, but the Brumbies refused to go away and found their rhythm to impose themselves and hold on for a hard-fought win.