Super Rugby
David Pocock leads Brumbies to victory
ESPN Staff
April 24, 2015
Date/Time: Apr 24, 2015, 19:55 local, 09:55 GMT
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Brumbies 31 - 18 Highlanders
Half-time: 31 - 6
Tries: Pocock 3, Speight
Cons: Leali'ifano 4
Pens: Leali'ifano
Tries: Pryor, Treeby
Cons: Sopoaga
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Jesse Mogg of the Brumbies takes on the Highlanders defence, Brumbies v Highlanders, Super Rugby, GIO Stadium, Canberra, April 24, 2015
Jesse Mogg made a great return for the Brumbies
© Getty Images
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A David Pocock hat-trick in the first half has lead the Brumbies to their second win in five matches. Starting early with a Henry Speight try, the Brumbies could do no wrong as they easily broke through the Highlanders defence and made easy metres down field while Pocock found the perfect position at the back of the rolling maul to go over three times and secure a four-try bonus-point before the half-time break.

It was a timely performance by the openside flanker, whose spot in the Wallabies' World Cup squad was thrown up in the air following this week's decision by the ARU to change its eligibility policy. The new rules mean overseas-based stars, who've played 60-plus Tests and seven seasons of professional rugby in Australia, would be open for selection - opening the door for a potential national recall to great George Smith.

Brumbies 31-18 Highlanders (video available in Australia only)

But Pocock's classy display on Friday would make it hard for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to bump him in favour of Smith and skipper Michael Hooper. Boosted by the return of big names Tevita Kuridrani and Jesse Mogg, the Brumbies took less than five minutes to get on the board - pouncing on a dropped ball to score against the run of play via Henry Speight.

A successful conversion was followed by more than a point a minute to the home side in the opening quarter. After slotting a simple penalty, the Brumbies' mighty maul made light work of the Highlanders' defence - Pocock rolling over for his first try since joining the franchise in 2013.

Two successive penalties to the Highlanders narrowed the gap to 17-6, but Pocock proved his worth again in a play almost identical to his first on the back of a classy lineout drive from five metres out. He repeated it just minutes later on the opposite side of the field, adding his third from the back of the maul for a 31-6 lead at half-time.

The Highlanders clawed their way back after the break, tries to Shaun Treeby and Dan Pryor reducing the deficit to 31-18. But it was too little too late for the visitors, who were without halfback Aaron Smith, centre Malakai Fekitoa and fullback Ben Smith, all rested as part of All Blacks player management ahead of the World Cup.

The Brumbies, who lost to the Blues and Melbourne Rebels the previous two weeks, remain on top of the Australian conference ahead of next week's crunch match against defending champions the NSW Waratahs.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said the Brumbies' first half was "superb" but again lamented some of the adjudication of the maul.

"We probably didn't get the rub of the green in the second half, with some of the decisions and that's fair enough," he said. "There's a lot of technical things that go on in the maul, but it's about the team that gets set and going first that generally gets the advantage - which is what you saw in the second half. That's the first maul try we've had scored against us this year, so a little bit disappointing in that respect."

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said it was hard to recover after giving away an early 10 points, admitting his side lacked the urgency and aggression to defend the Brumbies' maul.

"That wasn't the start that we wanted," he said. "I did think we were outplayed that first 20 or 30 minutes and when you leak 30-odd points away then it's bloody hard to come back, isn't it?"

David Pocock played a huge match for the Brumbies as he scored a hat-trick and dominated in defence © Getty Images
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