DUNEDIN, New Zealand, April 14 (Reuters) - An intercept try from Waisake Naholo ended a spirited effort by the ACT Brumbies to end Australia’s long standing Super Rugby drought against New Zealand opposition as the Otago Highlanders won 43-17 in their clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Brumbies fought back after conceding two first half tries and were only five points adrift, and dominating the second half exchanges, when Naholo snatched an intercept five metres from his own try line in the 60th minute and set off to the other end to score.
That sparked a wake-up call for the Highlanders and within 10 minutes they had added two more tries to go from 15-10 ahead to lead 36-10 and bury any chance of Australian success.
Ben Smith, after a turnover at the loose set, went roaring away down the touchline in the 65th minute, and then quickly followed a first Super Rugby try for loose forward Shannon Frizell to take the game beyond the Brumbies.
The Highlanders had started well as flyhalf Lima Sopoaga went over in the seventh minute for the first score of the game as the hosts went through 10 phases before breaking the visiting defence.
Smith then scored his first of the night with a clever inside cut after an expansive passing move in the 25th minute.
But the Brumbies’ Isi Naisarani broke off the back of the scrum to burst over and reduce the score in the 34th minute and leave the Highlanders with a tenuous 12-10 lead at the break.
Even though Sopoaga kicked over the penalty to make it 15-10 in the 48th minute, the Brumbies were dominating and in an advantageous position when Sopoaga was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes after dangerous tackle.
But Naholo’s intercept dramatically turned the game to ensure a 34th successive win for a Kiwis team over Australian opposition in Super Rugby.
Joe Powell came off the bench for Brumbies and scored a try with six minutes left to reduce the score but a jinxing run, in stoppage time, from Fletcher Smith ensured the Highlanders finished with a six try haul. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)