Sat, Feb 16, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Inaugural thriller as the Highlanders edge Chiefs


A 14-man Otago Highlanders yesterday came from behind to begin the Super Rugby season with a thrilling 30-27 win over Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.

All Black halfback Aaron Smith’s late try sealed the win for the Highlanders, who had Sio Tomkinson sent off for a high shot on Brodie Retallick.

They trailed 19-10 at halftime, and captain Ben Smith said they had to dig deep for the away win.

“It was a hell of a battle and what better way to set the tone for Super Rugby,” he said. “I thought we adjusted well when Sio went off and managed to maintain the game and scrape home.”

Chiefs skipper Retallick was disappointed at the loss after his side scored four tries to three — including a double for Etene Nanai-Seturo — but paid the price for some poor kicking and lapses in discipline.

“We’ll learn from it... We were right in the game except for that last 15 to 20 minutes when it got away from us,” he said. “But we’ve got some young boys who got their first hit out and some exciting outside backs, and I saw some great execution from them.”

The Highlanders dominated the early exchanges, but solid defense prevented them from making it count on the scoreboard until towering lock Pari Pari Parkinson scored the first try in the 14th minute.

The Chiefs hit back a few minutes later, when Tyler Ardron broke from the back of a scrum to score. They then look the lead after a spectacular kick and chase from Bailyn Sullivan set up Angus Taavao-Matau.

Nanai-Seturo added a third when hooker Nathan Harris floated him a beautiful pass to release the winger down the left touchline.

His second came just after halftime when he gathered Orbyn Leger’s cross-field kick on the run before crossing the line.

A Shannon Frizell try with 20 minutes left on the clock kept the Highlanders’ hopes alive and they continued to press even when they were reduced to 14 men in the 66th minute.

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