Qualifiers - Highlanders v Chiefs, 20 June, Forsyth Barr Stadium Dunedin
The atmosphere was electric with a virtual capacity of 22,500 fans packed into Forsyth Barr Stadium with the crowd bringing the noise! Both teams came out fired up and hit the line hard in attack and on defense. Both first-fives traded penalties early on and the score was at 3-all after 10 minutes of play. It took until the 23rd minute mark for the first try of the game, Aaron Smith made a big break off the back of a scrum and then found Waisake Naholo who crossed the line for his 10th try of the season. The Chiefs replied with 2 penalties which pushed them into a narrow 1-point lead going into the break.
A win built on the back of cohesive attack and never say die defense. Like they did in the first half, the Highlanders came out firing and scored a try early to none other than Naholo when he crossed on the right wing to become the competition's leading try scorer off a suberb run and offload from Aaron Smith. Lima Sopoaga pushed the lead out further with a penalty goal as clock brought up 60 minutes. The Chiefs replied through Brodie Retallick with the big lock reaching out to score after a sustained period of attack. Not long after Sopoaga knocked over a penalty and extended the Highlanders lead to 21-14. The Highlanders were then called upon to defend as the Chiefs threw everything at the home side's line, and defend they did, eventually forcing the all important turnover with minutes left on the clock. Following that crucial turnover they fought their way down-field and sealed the result with a penalty from out in front on fulltime.
What a match! Semi-Finals here we come! Thank you to everyone that showed up in support, it was your energy that got the guys home.
FIRST HALF: HIG:8 - CHI:9
SECOND HALF: HIG:24 - CHI:14
Tries - W.Naholo 2
Pen - L.Sopoaga 4
Con - L.Sopoaga
Tries - B.Retallick
Pen - A.Horrell 3