A rejuvenated David Pocock helped the Brumbies snap a two-game losing streak with a first-half hat-trick in Friday night’s 31-18 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders.
Pocock scored three tries within 35 minutes on the back of his side’s rolling maul weapon at Canberra’s GIO Stadium, much to the delight of a roaring 10,138 fans.
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.
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 halftime.
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.