Duendin - Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and winger Waisake Naholo did their chances of
an All Blacks call-up no harm as they helped the Highlanders to a
24-14 victory over the Chiefs in an intense wildcard playoff
match in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Highlanders, playing their first
Super Rugby knockout match at home since 1999, advanced to the
semi-finals for the first time in 13 years with the victory.
and Naholo have been touted as possible surprise inclusions in Steve
Hansen's extended All Blacks squad on Sunday as the world champions
build to their title defence in England later this year.
slotted four penalties and a conversion for the home side, while Naholo
combined beautifully with scrumhalf Aaron Smith to score two tries and
made several barnstorming runs, one of which was unlucky not to produce a
first-minute try to Patrick Osborne.
Referee Chris Pollock,
however, asked for the replay to be checked and the television official
said Naholo had been in touch when he passed to Liam Coltman, though
there was doubt as to whether his foot was grounded outside the line.
did score the only try of the first half when Smith exploited poor
defence down the blindside with the pair supporting each other before
the winger took the final pass to cross in the corner.
managed to stay in the game with some superb counter-attacks from deep
that allowed them to gain field position from which flyhalf Andrew
Horrell slotted three penalties to give his side a 9-8 lead at the
Smith, however, again exploited the blindside close to the
line, drawing in defenders that opened up Naholo's wing and allowed him
to score his Super Rugby leading 11th try of the season just two minutes
into the second half.
lock Brodie Retallick, who seemed to be involved in all of the early
confrontations and shoving matches between both sides, crossed with 20
minutes to go after his pack hammered at the Highlanders in close to
reduce the margin to 18-14.
Sopoaga slotted his third penalty five
minutes later to give the Highlanders space and while they were under
immense pressure for the rest of the game the crowd of 22 500 roared
them on before Sopoaga kicked his fourth penalty in the final minute.
Highlanders - Tries: Waisake Naholo (2). Conversion: Lima Sopoaga. Penalties: Sopoaga (4)
Chiefs - Try: Brodie Retallick. Penalties: Andrew Horrell (3)
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edwards
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Shaun Treeby
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Andrew Horrell, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Michael Fitzgerald, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Mitchell Crosswell, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Seta Tamanivalu