Impressive Highlanders tame 'Tahs

    2015-03-14 10:22

    Dunedin - The Highlanders earned a crucial bonus point on Saturday when they downed the defending Super Rugby champion Waratahs 26-19 in a come-from-behind victory in Dunedin.

    A week after they rallied late to beat the star-studded Chiefs, the Highlanders put the squeeze on the Sydneysiders with two tries on either side of half-time.

    The Waratahs started strongly, monstered the Highlanders scrum - the only New Zealand pack with no internationals - and stormed their way to a 12-0 lead with two tries inside the first quarter.

    But the Highlanders, outweighed and outplayed at close quarters early on, came back, with the side's co-captain Nasi Manu saying it was a matter of doing the basics right.

    "Our urgency on turnover ball, I guess that was the difference," he said.

    "It was a big effort by the forwards. And we really defended well, and when we got in their half we were patient."

    The southerners bounced back with a four-try spree before the Waratahs claimed a consolation third try at the end.

    Other chances went begging for the Waratahs.

    When the tireless Michael Hooper and Jacques Potgieter led a three-quarter revival, the Waratahs found themselves shut out by a patient Highlanders defence.

    In a late attack on the Highlanders line, the Waratahs drove Hooper over but referee Craig Joubert ruled the ball was not grounded.

    Victory gave the Highlanders three wins and a loss from four games while the Waratahs, who have also played four, are 2-2.

    They must have felt they were up for a third win a couple of minutes into the game when Hooper cut through the Highlanders backline and put Nick Phipps over for the opening try.

    Matt Carraro then crossed the line when the Highlanders were caught unawares by a blindside play from a scrum.

    It would be 60 minutes before the Waratahs would score again as the Highlanders found a way to fight back by forcing turnovers and attacking at pace.

    Tom Franklin drove over from close range and Waisake Naholo ran 70 metres for a try after Malakai Fekitoa ripped the ball of Israel Folau in a tackle.

    Lima Sopoaga converted both and added a further two points when Ben Smith scored early in the second half.

    Patrick Osborne started and finished the move that produced the decisive fourth try in which the elusive Smith opened up the Waratahs defence.

    With time almost up, the Highlanders squandered a chance to keep a clean sheet in the second half when a clearing kick failed to find touch and Folau mounted a counter-attack which saw Stephen Hoiles cross the line.



    15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Josh Hohneck

    Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 John Hardie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery


    15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (captain), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson

    Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Mitchell Chapman, 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Jono Lance, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro/Ben Volavola

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