Planet Rugby

Highlanders hang on

03rd March 2012 05:32

Share:

john hardie highlanders v crusaders

Big win: Highlanders prevail

The Highlanders made it back to back wins in Super Rugby after seeing off the Crusaders 27-24 at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

The hosts outscored their Kiwi counterparts by three tries to two, with new recruit Hosea Gear crossing for the match-winner ten minutes from full-time.

The home fans were left with their hearts in their mouth when Crusaders pivot Tyler Bleyendaal's long-range penalty to level the scores dropped under the bar.

A thrilling encounter took a bizzare turn towards the end, when the Highlanders celebrated victory with three minutes still left to play. The stadium clock showed 80 minutes, but the ref's watch read differently.

Again, the Highlanders thumped the ball into touch and threw their hands in the air thinking it was game over. But once again, the ref signalled for a line-out. With Highlanders fans and players left scratching their heads, the win was finally confirmed after the hosts forward pack were pushed off their own feed in the scrum.

The Crusaders thought they had another chance to steal victory or a draw after Bleyendaal's earlier last-gasp drop attempt had drifted inches wide. But after Jaco Peyper had liased with his touch judge, he blew full-time - much to the annoyance of the visitors.

In the end, it was a well deserved win for the Highlanders, who not only impressed in attack but were dominant at the breakdown.

With Chris Noakes - the kicking hero for the Highlanders in Round One - sidelined and Colin Slade on the bench, it was Lima Sopoaga who took over the kicking duties.

The Highlanders pivot put his team on the scoreboard as early as the second minute, but opposite number Bleyendaal leveled the scores after pushing his first shot at goal wide.

The first try of the match showed the Crusaders at their well-drilled best, Israel Dagg crossing after a set play from the line-out which saw Matt Todd burst upfield with superb support play from Robbie Freuan.

The response from the Highlanders was immediate, though, with Phil Burleigh and Adam Thomson making the hard yards before veteran Andrew Hore sniped around the edges of the breakdown to score. Sopoaga's conversion made it 10-10 after 17 minutes.

The home side restored their three-point advantage through Sopoaga - although they perhaps deserved more after a couple of incisive breaks from impressive flank John Hardie.

However they were rewarded for their efforts on the stroke of half-time as Burleigh evaded the attempted tackle of Kieran Read down the blindside to score in the corner for his second try in two weeks.

Sopoaga's conversion gave the Highlanders a 10-point (20-10) lead at half-time.

Three Bleyendaal penalties were capped off by a well-taken try to scrum-half Andy Ellis thanks to a lightning-quick Crusaders counter-attack while the Highlanders were hot on attack.

Bleyendaal missed the conversion, but he kicked the Crusaders into a 21-20 lead on 54 minutes with a penalty.

Sopoaga missed a regulation shot at goal to put the Highlanders back in front - and the Crusaders made him pay with Bleyendaal's fourth penalty of the match.

The Highlanders refused to give up, though, and they were back in front when Gear showed his finishing prowess in the corner. A series of drives dragged in the Crusaders defence before superb hands from Tamati Ellison gave Gear enough room to score.

Sopoaga added the crucial conversion before the drama unfolded. And the rest, as they say, is history as the Highlanders hung on for a famous win in front of a sell-out crowd.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Hore, Burleigh, Gear
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pens: Sopoaga 2

For Crusaders:
Tries: Dagg, Ellis
Cons: Bleyendaal
Pens: Bleyendaal 4

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Buxton Popoali'i, 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 Crosswell, 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 Colin, Slade, 22, Telusa Veainu.

Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willie Heinz, 21 Patrick Osborne, 22 Zac Guildford.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 24
North Harbour vs Canterbury19:35
Thursday , September 25
Bay Of Plenty vs Northland19:35
Friday , September 26
Taranaki vs Auckland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39