Highlanders march on in title defence


The Highlanders' bid for a second successive Super Rugby title continued with a 15-9 quarter-final win over the Brumbies.

Having won their maiden championship last season, Jamie Joseph's side are fast closing on another following a dogged display in Canberra, where they withstood late pressure.

Lima Sopoaga's fifth-minute penalty opened the scoring for the visitors in the first of the quarter-finals, but Christian Lealiifano kicked two of his own to give the Brumbies a lead that remained until three minutes before the interval.

A sleek build-up afforded Waisake Naholo the chance to touch down and Sopoaga added the extras to put the Highlanders ahead at the break.

Despite the boot of Lealiifano reducing the deficit early in the second half, a further Highlanders try settled matters as Sopoaga made a superb interception to set in motion a move that ended with a score for Liam Squire.

Though the conversion was missed, Joseph's men had the defensive resilience needed to sit on their six-point lead for the final 20 minutes, though they did require a Television Match Official call to go their way at the end.

The remaining last-eight ties all take place on Saturday, with last year's beaten finalists the Hurricanes facing the Sharks, the Lions taking on the Crusaders, and the Stormers hosting the Chiefs.