HIGHLANDERS break Brumbies in 'brook battle.
Super 12: Highlanders 16 bt Brumbies 9.
DRIVEN on by a front five hell-bent on domination the Highlanders overcame the odds to upset the favoured Brumbies 16-9 in a rugged tussle at Carisbrook Friday night.
Lining up without their main motivator All Black incumbent hooker Anton Oliver the Highlander heavies - Carl Hayman, Carl Hoeft, Tom Willis, Vila Waimuri and Simon Maling - faced up to the hardship of an 80 minute encounter with the form Brumbie pack and excelled to emerge as the dominant force in a match determined more on physical prowess than fancy footwork.
The two teams went hard out at each other from the opening kick-off with the highlight being the battle of talents between feisty halves Byron Kelleher and the accepted top ranking number nine, Wallaby star George Gregan.
While Gregan has the talent to back up his deserved reputation the tough Kelleher reveled in upseting his vaunted rival and by underlining a couple of surging dashes with a smashing tackle he got the upper hand and by doing so effectively had the Brumbies reeling in frustration as the game wore on.
Despite Gregan being under pressure and his team restricted to little possession in poor positions throughout the first half their sheer determination on defence and the Highlander's inability to convert opportunity into tries saw the teams end the first 40 level at 9-9.
However while it was disturbing the Highlanders had failed to cross the tryline despite several gilt-edged opportunities the sense of the game was the Brumbies were out of sorts and would be hard-pressed to contrive a win againt a home team whose forwards were playing above themselves to ensure success.
A rampant Highlander pack, with replacement loosie Josh Blackie outstanding alongside his front five, continued to pressure the Brumbies defence and it was just reward when a series of attacks edged closer to the line before winger Aisea Tuilevu managed to burrow through a maul to score.
The Fijian's sixth try of Super 12 was converted by the ever accurate Tony Brown and the Highlander's took an extremely hard fought 16-9 lead.
Despite being outplayed the Brumbies refused to concede and all their champion qualities were called upon as they mounted a comeback in the last fifteen minutes.
However with Carisbrook in full voice the Highlanders put in the hard graft to defend resolutely and in doing so denied the Brumbies any opportunity to escape defeat.