Highlanders steal unlikely win

The Highlanders have stolen an unlikely 20-17 win against the Chiefs in their fourth round Super Rugby match at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.


Trailing 14-3 at halftime, the Chiefs steamed back with two penalty tries in the second spell, but paid the price for not taking their chances as the Highlanders added two late penalties to steal the win.

The Chiefs dominated possession and territory early on, looking sharp in shifting the ball wide despite the absence of centre Charlie Ngatai, out after tweaking an ankle earlier in the week.

They were also missing All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, sidelined with a shoulder injury picked up in last week’s 40-16 thumping of the Crusaders, but received a late boost with the inclusion of No.8 Liam Messam after passing a concussion test.

The Highlanders absorbed intense pressure for much of the first half, taking a 6-3 lead on penalties into the last 10 minutes as the Chiefs struggled with handling errors and poor option-taking.

The Highlanders scrum worked hard to hold off the Chiefs close to the line, then second five-eighth Shaun Treeby sparked a length-of-the-field try as the visitors struck on the counterattack.

Wing Patrick Osborne finished the movement in style, sidestepping his way through four defenders to touch down for his eighth Super Rugby try.

Lima Sopo’aga couldn’t add the conversion, but managed a late penalty right on the halftime whistle to give the Highlanders a 14-3 lead going into the break.

If the Chiefs, unbeaten so far this season, lacked patience and accuracy in the first spell, they rediscovered both right from the restart.

Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler was sin-binned after five minutes for playing the ball on the ground, the home team capitalising almost immediately with a maul from the resulting scrum winning a penalty try.

The Chiefs continued to dominate up front, scoring a second penalty try as the hour marked approached, Aaron Cruden’s conversion giving them a 17-14 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.

They held the lead until replacement No.10 Marty Banks sank a 77th minute penalty to level the scores, following that up two minutes later with a second three-pointer to seal the win.