Planet Rugby

Epic win for unbeaten Highlanders

10th March 2012 03:33

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Aaron Smith scoring for the Highlanders near posts

First try-scorer: Aaron Smith

The Highlanders made it three wins out of three in Super Rugby after scrapping to a hard-fought 18-17 success over the 'Tahs in Dunedin.

In what was a titanic struggle between two sides looking to top their respective conference, the home outfit ultimately sneaked the four points.

Tries were scored by scrum-half Aaron Smith and openside flanker John Hardie, with Colin Slade kicking eight points after Lima Sopoaga left the under-the-roof action following a shoulder injury he sustained in the build-up to Smith's try.

The Highlanders now sit atop of matters in New Zealand and fully deserved their victory at Forsyth Barr Stadium after showing an inventive style that seemed down to a pre-conceived mindset.

Despite being 0-6 down with sixteen minutes played, the hosts turned down kickable penalties and instead set about going for the jugular, with Sopoaga taking it up from a quick tap and then finding his scoring half-back partner in support.

It was a sign of things to come from the home side as they went at the 'Tahs full throttle, with Adam Thomson heavily involved alongside fellow flank Hardie as they turned the screw. Their dominance was unrewarded though as they went into the sheds 8-9 down following three Daniel Halangahu penalties.

Upon the turnaround came a nightmare moment for Slade as the Waratahs came out on the attack and Pat McCutcheon charged down the full-back's clearing kick to score close to the uprights. Halangahu missed the extras in what turned out to be a key moment in the game.

But if the simple kicks were going astray, the difficult efforts were not and the Highlanders hit the front when Slade converted Hardie's try in the corner after a nice assist from Kade Poki.

In a see-sawing period of scoring, Halangahu immediately regained the advantage for the Waratahs with his fourth penalty from out wide, only for Slade's second penalty ten minutes later to put the hosts back in front 18-17 before a nervy finish saw the Highlanders hold on.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Smith, Hardie
Con: Slade
Pen: Slade 2

For Waratahs:
Try: McCutcheon
Pen: Halangahu 4

Highlanders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Croswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 James Haskell, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Kurt Baker, 23 Buxton Popoali'i.

Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (c), 9 Sarel Pretorius; 8 Tevita Metuisela, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Tom Carter, 22 Brackin Karuaria-Henry.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

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