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    Highlanders victorious in Dunedin

    2015-06-20 11:22
    Liam Coltman of the Highlanders on the charge during the Super Rugby Qualifying Final match between the Highlanders and the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium (Getty Images)

    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.

    Sopoaga 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.

    Sopoaga 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.

    Naholo 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.

    The Chiefs 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 break.

    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.

    Chiefs 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

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