The Otago Highlanders ended a year of Super Rugby misery by repelling a late Sharks rally to prevail 25-22 in Dunedin yesterday, their first win of the season.
Shaun Treeby, Aaron Smith and Colin Slade all crossed for tries as the Highlanders recorded their first win since beating the Auckland Blues on May 26 last year.
The Highlanders opened the scoring after Slade’s grubber kick in behind the Sharks defense fell to center Treeby who touched down by the posts in the 10th minute.
However, the Sharks were quick to respond with Meyer Bosman touching down by the posts.
Patrick Lambie converted and added a penalty before the flyhalf set up a second try in the 35th minute with a chip kick over the defense that Bosman collected and offloaded to Lwazi Mvovo, who outpaced Ben Smith to the line.
Lambie missed the conversion, but the Sharks went in to the break 15-7 ahead after Slade was wayward with another penalty.
The Highlanders sprang out of the traps at the start of the second period, probing in the Sharks 22, before Aaron Smith dived over for the home side’s second try.
Slade finally found his range and slotted the conversion to cut the deficit to one and then added two tricky penalties to put Super Rugby’s bottom side ahead 20-15 in the 53rd minute.
Slade then started and finished a brilliant move that resulted in the Highlanders third try.
He took a high ball just inside his own half before offloading with Ben and Aaron Smith making telling breaks and passes before Chris King popped the ball free for Slade to sprint in.
The visitors hit back as Bosman crashed over the line before Lambie converted to cut the deficit to three with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Twice Lambie rejected the chance to kick for goal and level the scores after the Highlanders gave away penalties, one of which forced Brad Thorn to the sin bin.
Despite the numerical disadvantage the Highlanders held on.
FORVE V REDS
Resolute defending by the Western Force helped the Australian Conference’s bottom side hold the Queensland Reds to a 11-11 draw in a fiercely contested Super Rugby clash in Perth yesterday.
The Reds dominated possession and territory for long periods, but struggled to turn that superiority into points as the Force produced a defiant display in front of their appreciative home crowd.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper had the opportunity to win the game, but his 75th-minute conversion from near the right touchline was pulled wide.
“Our defense was great during that game ... they threw a lot at us and we were perhaps unlucky not to grab the win there,” Force skipper Matt Hodgson said.