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
STANDINGS: The Uni-President Lions’ victory pushed the CTBC Brothers to first place after they won their third straight game, beating the Fubon Guardians 6-3 The big bats of the Uni-President Lions were on fire in the CPBL yesterday as they crushed the Rakuten Monkeys 21-5 in Taoyuan, with outfielder Lin An-ko driving in seven runs on five hits and two homers. The result enabled the CTBC Brothers to take the No. 1 spot after they beat the Fubon Guardians 6-3. It was a highlight reel for the Taiwanese-Argentinian star Lin, who drilled two homers amid a heated home-run race between himself, now on 16 for the season, and Lions teammate Su Chih-chieh, who is on 18. Lin performed outstandingly, collecting five hits at six at-bats to drive
GERMAN LEADER: Liverpool’s 19th English title, one behind Manchester United’s record of 20, owes much to the transformational impact of coach Juergen Klopp Liverpool on Thursday ended a 30-year wait for the English title as they were crowned Premier League champions, triggering jubilant scenes as fans ignored social distancing measures to celebrate uproariously. Juergen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title with a record seven games remaining after Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of second-placed Manchester City left the defending champions an unbridgeable 23 points adrift. Liverpool’s first English title since 1989-1990 — delayed by the COVID-19 suspension — earns them their maiden trophy in the Premier League, which was introduced in 1992-1993 and has been won 13 times by their archrivals Manchester United. Klopp was in tears
WOLFSBURG BEATEN: Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored from a penalty, his 34th league goal this season, finishing as the top Bundesliga scorer for the fifth time Werder Bremen gave themselves hope of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga by thrashing Cologne 6-1 to grab a playoff place on the last day of the season, while champions Bayern Munich routed VfL Wolfsburg before lifting the trophy on Saturday. Japan striker Yuya Osako scored twice as Bremen stole the lifeline of the relegation/promotion playoff place from Fortuna Duesseldorf, who lost 3-0 against Union Berlin and were relegated with SC Paderborn, finishing one point behind Bremen. “We put in a great performance under pressure, but we are aware that we haven’t achieved anything — in the relegation playoff, the emotions will be
Alexis Lafreniere was supposed to walk on stage on Friday night in Montreal as the top pick in the NHL draft. After the COVID-19 pandemic paused the hockey season and postponed that possibility, Lafreniere was supposed to find out Friday night where he would be going when the league held its draft lottery. Instead, he must wait a little bit longer. Chaos reigned at the NHL draft lottery, with the No. 1 pick still up for grabs in a second lottery drawing among the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round of the playoffs — if play resumes. “We all knew