Sun, Jul 15, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Late surge gets Highlanders home against Rebels

AFP, WELLINGTON

The Otago Highlanders produced a late, three-try surge for a 43-37 Super Rugby victory over the Melbourne Rebels as they nullified a hat-trick of tries by Reece Hodge.

Despite a sterling effort by Hodge, who finished with 29 points, the Rebels were left in a precarious eighth place, while the Highlanders were already assured of a quarter-final berth before the match in Dunedin.

The Rebels’ chance of an historic first appearance in the play-offs would depend on the outcome of the final game in the regular season between the ninth placed Coastal Sharks and seventh-placed Jaguares, which kicked off after press time last night.

The Australian club looked to have the match sewn up when they led 34-23 with 17 minutes to play when the Highlanders clicked.

In the space of 12 minutes they scored three tries, two of them converted, to hit the front 43-34, with the Rebels coming back to earn a losing bonus point from a late Jack Debreczeni penalty.

With a quarter-final at stake, the Rebels raced to a 17-3 lead inside the first quarter as they pounced on turnover ball to produce tries by Amanaki Mafi and Hodge, who also landed a penalty.

Two of Hodge’s tries came from charging down Highlander attempts to chip over his head.

The Highlanders did not get into the game until Rebels scrumhalf Michael Ruru was sent to the sin bin for foot-tripping Lima Sopoaga.

The home side struck back with tries by Waisake Naholo and Kayne Hammington, with Sopoaga adding the extras to level at 17-all and when Hodge regained the lead for the Rebels with his second try, Tei Walden responded immediately to leave the Rebels ahead 24-22 at the turn.

Hodge continued to notch up the points at the start of the second half with a converted try and his second penalty before the Highlanders winning late burst which saw tries to Tevita Li, Greg Pleasants-Tate and Tom Franklin.

In other games yesterday, the ACT Brumbies defeated the New South Wales Waratahs 40-31. There was no chance the result would affect the play-offs, with the Waratahs comfortably atop the Australian conference and the Brumbies unable to make the top eight.

Earlier, the table-topping Canterbury Crusaders put the New Zealand cellar-dwellers to the sword with a 54-17 thrashing.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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