Super Rugby

Highlanders back on track with win over Brumbies

Lima Sopoaga scored 18 points and Super Rugby champions Highlanders produced a resolute defensive display to beat Brumbies 23-10 at Rugby Park on Saturday.

Brumbies had won seven of their last eight matches - and three in a row - against Highlanders before making the trip to Invercargill, but Stephen Larkham's men lacked a cutting edge and were punished.

Sopoaga went over for the opening try just before half-time and Ben Smith added a second soon after the interval, with the former also scoring 13 points with the boot to ensure Highlanders avoided a third successive defeat.

Brumbies, who welcomed back David Pocock but were missing the injured Joe Tomane and Stephen Moore, made an assured start and were in front courtesy of a Christian Lealiifano penalty after Jack Wilson had been sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Robbie Coleman.

Highlanders struggled to get going in a disjointed first half, but led 7-3 at half-time after Sopoaga took a brilliant pass from Aaron Smith and charged over following a scrum five metres out.

Brumbies were unfortunate to be behind and they were up against it when Malakai Fekitoa made a break six minutes into the second half and fed Smith, who raced over for a second try.

Josh Mann-Rea barged over five minutes later following a driving maul and Lealiifano added the extras to make it 14-10, but three Sopoaga penalties sealed the victory for a Highlanders side who are now fourth in the Australasian Group.