This was always going to be an intense battle and slightly slippery conditions underfoot didn't help either team hold onto the ball when they looked for opportunities to run. Lima Sopoaga opened the scoring with a penalty, but the Crusaders struck back almost instantly with a try to Matt Todd on the left wing. The Highlanders then had to endure 10 minutes without Sopoaga after he received a yellow card in the 8th minute for a shoulder charge on his opposite first-five and ex-teammate, Colin Slade. After holding the Crusaders scoreless for the 10 minutes Sopoaga was off the field almost as soon as he returned the Crusaders went over for their second 5-pointer with Taufua burrowing over the line. Sopoaga then closed the gap with a penalty goal with 20 minutes left to play before the break. The remainder of the half saw play move its way up and down the field as both sides fought for territory only to lose the ball at crucial moments. Just as the first half came to a close Sopoaga made a big break through the middle of the park, offloading to Ben Smith who ran the final 40 to score, making it a one point ball game going into the sheds.
Shortly after played resumed Waisake Naholo ran the Highlanders into the lead with his 5th try of the season after interceppting the ball from 50m out with the Crusaders hot on attack. It wasn't long before Naholo nabbed his second try of the game after a trademark bullet pass from Aaron Smith straight into the Fijian flyer's hands. Slade closed the gap with a penalty with 25minutes left on the clock and then the Highlanders defended wave after wave of Crusaders attack for the remainder of the second half as the home side chased the win. The Crusaders managed to bring the score within 7 points with 5minutes left on the clock after another Slade penalty to set up a nervous last few minutes but the Highlanders would not give up and fought until the final whistle for a well-deserved victory!
HALF TIME: CRU 14 - HIG 13
FULL TIME: CRU 20 - HIG 25
Tries - M.Todd, J. Taufua
Pen - C.Slade 2
Con - I.Dagg, C. Slade
Tries - B.Smith, W.Naholo 2
Pen - L.Sopoaga 2
Con - L.Sopoaga 2
Cards -L/Sopoaga (8th min yellow)
Both team were kept scoreless in the first 15 minutes as they wrestled for possession with the Stormers finally breaking the drought and mid-fielder, Juan de Jongh, crossing over for a try after being fed the ball from Super Rugby centurian, Shalk Burger. The Highlanders replied almost instantly through a counter attacking play that ended with Aaron Smith doting the ball down to draw level. The reminder of the first half continued to be an even battle until the final 10 minutes when Lima Sopoaga put the home side ahead with a penalty which was followed soon after by a 50 metre intercept try to Waisake Naholo. Naholo crossed over for another highlights reel worth try in the dying seconds of the first half after beating two defenders and running through a third to score. Sopoaga slotted all conversions and the Highlanders led 24-7 at the halftime break.
The Highlanders dominated possession and territory for the first 10 minutes of the second half and were rewarded with their bonus point try through Patrick Osborne who went over following an extended period of pressure close to the Stormers line. The home side then had to endure a long period of Stormers trademark pick and gos before the visitors scored on the 62nd minute mark. With just over 5minutes to play Dan Pryor scored his first Super Rugby try after finding himself in space 22 metres out. The Stormers manage to score a consolation try with 5 minutes to play after De Jongh went over for his second of the night following great play from the Stormer's back 3, but it was the Highlanders who had the final say with Marty Banks slotting a penalty on the buzzer to push the home team out to a 39-21 win.
HALF TIME: HIG 24 - STO 7
FULL TIME: HIG 39 - STO 21
Tries - A.Smith, W.Naholo 2, P.Osborne, D.Pryor
Pen - L.Sopoaga, M.Banks
Con - L.Sopoaga 4
Cards - A.Smith (56th min yellow)
Tries - J.de Jongh 2, M.Rhodes
Con - D.Catrakilis, K.Coleman 2
It was always going to be an epic battle here at Forsyth Barr Stadium and neither team disappointed. The gravity off this match obviously was not lost on the players as uncharacteristic handling errors were committed by both sides in the early stages. After 15 minutes of play Lima Sopoaga opened the scoring with a penalty after working himself into a scoring position following an intercepted loose pass from Ma'a Nonu. It then took until the 35th minute mark for the next points to be scored with Beauden Barrett slotting a penalty for the visitors to bring the scores level. The score stayed at 3-all for the reminder of the half with both teams looking dangerous.
The Highlanders came out of the sheds and attacked the Hurricanes line whose defense stood up to the mountain of pressure that the Highlanders threw at them. On the 10 minute mark the Hurricanes scored the first try of the game after Goodes went over following multiple pick and go's while close to the Highlanders try line. Barrett pushed the Hurricane's lead out further with a penalty on the 60 minute mark. Lima Sopoaga replied with a penalty of his own shortly after to narrow the deficit. The Hurricanes then soaked up another massive attacking effort from the Highalnders and eventually managed to get the turnover and turned that possession into points with TJ Perenara scoring from a counter-attacking play.
The Highlanders swung back on attack and with time almost up on the clock, Savea sin binned due to multiple team infringements while defending, Sopoaga scored to set up a heart stopping final few minutes. The Highlanders went close to leveling the scores after the 80minute mark with replacement back Jason Emery crossing the line to score but on review a forward pass was picked up and the try was disallowed. Nail biting end to a tough game.
HALF TIME: HIG 3 - HUR 3
FULL TIME: HIG 13 - HUR 20
Tries - L.Sopoaga
Pen - L.Sopoaga 2
Con - L.Sopoaga
Tries - R,.Goodes, TJ Perenara
Pen - B.Barrett 2
Con - B.Barrett 2
Cards -J.Savea (yellow 77th min)
Tonight was another thriller under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The first quarter echoed the previous game with the Highlanders struggling for ball while the Waratahs held the majority of possession and territory and scored early through Nick Phipps after he received the ball from Michael Hooper following a big bust up the middle of the field. The visitors went over for their second on the 20 minute mark on the back of a good set piece play from the lineout, Mathew Carraro the try scorer. With 30 minutes gone the Highlanders found their reply through Tom Franklin burrowing over from close range. With time almost up in the first half, Malakai Fekitoa stripped the ball from Israel Folau and fed it to Waisake Naholo who scorched down the sideline for 60 metres to cross for our second try of the evening. Lima Sopoaga successfully converted to give us the Highlanders the lead going into the break.
The Highlanders came out of the sheds with a clear purpose, scoring two quickfire tries; one to Ben Smith following a rampaging run from Elliot Dixon and the second to Patrick Osborne who was set up following a searing run through the mid-field from previous try scorer Ben Smith. The Highlanders then found themselves having to defend wave after wave of attack from all parts for the last quarter as the the defending Super Rugby Champions looked to get back into the game. The defensive brickwall the Highlanders set held strong for the majority of the final quarter only wavering in the final minute when Waratahs' replacement loose forward, Stephen Hoiles, earnt his team a late consolation try. The conversion was unsuccessful and the Waratahs finished outside of bonus point reach. A gutsy effort all round.
HALF TIME: HIG 14 - WAR 12
FULL TIME: HIG 26 - WAR 19
Tries - T. Franklin, W.Naholo, B.Smith, P.Osborne
Con - L.Sopoaga 3
Tries - N.Phipps, M.Carraro, S.Hoiles
Con - B.Foley 2
Cards - S.Kepu (27th min yellow)
The opening 30 minutes of the game was fairly scrappy from both sides with the moist conditions contributing to the ball slipping from hands on regular occasions. The Chiefs dominated possession and territory and with the Highlanders fighting hard on defense but managing to get points on the board when they make it down to the oppositions tryline. Cruden opened the scoring with a penalty while Lima Sopoaga has picked up three penalties but missed the conversion following a brilliant try from Patrick Osborne who bet three defenders from 20m out .
The majority of the second 40minutes saw the Chiefs with seemingly insurmountable amount of territory and possession. They opened the second half with a penalty try from a scrum after we lost Joe Wheeler to the bin for playing the ball on the ground. It wasn't long before the home side got their second penalty try from the set piece as they once again capitalised from the Highlanders being a man down. The Highlanders looked shell shocked after the quick turnaround on the scoreboard and fought hard to get back into the game. Fortunately they managed to regain composure with 10minutes left on the clock. The Highlanders made the most of the last 10minutes, picking up two penalties with Marty Banks slotting the final penalty under immense pressure to take the win.
HALF TIME: CHI 3 - HIG 14
FULL TIME: CHI 17 - HIG 20
Tries - Penalty try 2
Pen - A.Cruden
Con - A.Cruden 2
Cards - J.Lowe (78th min yellow)
Tries - P.Osborne
Pen - L.Sopoaga 3, M.Banks 2
Cards - J.Wheeler (46th min yellow)