Brumbies answer Highlanders' challenge in Super victory
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says he can "definitely" see Corey Toole in a Wallabies jersey after the emerging winger produced a stunning display to help his side beat the Highlanders 48-32 in Canberra.
The lightning-quick 23-year-old scored twice, including a brilliant solo chip-and-chase that restored the lead and snuffed the visitors' challenge 15 minutes from time.
Nine lead changes meant neither side ever truly controlled the encounter at GIO Stadium, but the Brumbies dug deep to protect their perfect home record this Super Rugby Pacific season and move back to second place.
Larkham was gushing in his praise of rugby sevens convert Toole, who produced a dynamite first half that flashed his electric pace in a number of game-changing moments to once again press his Wallaby claims.
"I love watching him. I don't think I'm unlike anyone else; I'm a huge fan," he said.
"And I just love the fact when he's got a bit of space in front of him, he just lights up and it's amazing to have a player like that, he gives you so much confidence on the field.
"I obviously had a couple of players out on the wing that were quick. It gives you confidence knowing you can throw the ball out there and that guy is going to go on and score a try from 80 metres."
The win was somewhat soured by a sternum injury to Wallabies halfback Nic White, who left the game in the first half.
Larkham confirmed White would miss next weekend's trip to the Western Force, but was optimistic he had avoided a fracture and would be on the shelf for only around two weeks.
The hosts once again engaged in a wild first half reminiscent of recent home wins against NSW and Fijian Drua, but their backs were firmly to the wall when Folau Fakatava put the Highlanders six points clear on 62 minutes with ACT flanker Luke Reimer in the sin bin.
The ACT rose to the challenge with a 12-0 scoreline while a man down to gain the ascendancy, which Larkham labelled the most pleasing aspect of the win.
But he admitted defensive lapses which leave the door open for opponents were an ongoing concern.
"We're a really exciting team to watch in attack. Really happy with the way we had the ability to score tries when we needed to," he said.
"But we've got to have a look at our defence and work out what our issues are there. One thing that was spoken about in the sheds is tackle completion wasn't where it needed to be again.
"We've seen that now against a couple of NZ teams - Crusaders, Hurricanes and (Highlanders)."
The Highlanders scored three first-half tries, answered by a powerful effort from ACT outside centre Len Ikitau and flanker Jahrome Brown in a first half that included six lead changes.
Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said it was an improved performance over his side's past month but errors gave their opponents an easier path to victory.
"We knew if we gave the Brumbies opportunities in our 22, they're probably one of the best in the competition around executing," he said.
"Discipline errors around halfway allowed easy entries. They didn't have to really work to get in there.
"They are awesome around the contact area, around the breakdown and double-shoulder collisions. They're obviously a quality team."