Highlanders finally enjoy winning feeling
May 4, 2013
Ben Smith produced a huge performance for the Highlanders
© Getty Images
The Highlanders have claimed their first victory of the Super Rugby season, holding out the Sharks with strong defence after the siren to win 25-22 at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night. The Sharks turned down thee penalty attempts in the final two minutes, and the desperate Highlanders held on for victory before 11,000 ecstatic fans.
The teams each scored three tries but magnificent performances by Ben and Aaron Smith and a match-saving tackle by Hosea Gear won the game for the Highlanders - who had lost their past six fixtures against the Sharks, and 10 of the 16 between the sides. The Highlanders also had not won a Super Rugby match in 12 starts since May 26, 2012 - the longest losing streak in New Zealand history. Brad Thorn who led the Highlanders out in his 100th game, said after the match that he hadn't "been that excited for just a round-robin match in may whole career".
The Sharks were a man down after six minutes when JP Pietersen was sin-binned for deliberately knocking down Aaron Smith's pass as the home side attacked desperately. Colin Slade struck the upright with a penalty attempt from 37 metres, but the Highanders struck after 10 minutes when the fly-half chip-kicked through and Shaun Treeby gathered and scored by the posts.
The Sharks levelled after 14 minutes when second five-eighth Meyer Bosman scored under the posts after a well-organised rolling maul from a lineout, and Lambie kicked a simple penalty after 30 minutes after Chris King had infringed at a ruck. The Sharks scored their second try after 35 minutes when left wing Lwazi Mvovo collected Riaan Viljoen's chip and sprinted 40 metres to score to make it 15-7, and Slade missed a penalty from 27 metres and in front just before the break to cap the Highlanders' half: the hosts failed to convert their opportunities into points and missed four shots at goal.
The Highlanders made a strong start to the second spell, and Aaron Smith took a quick tap penalty and darted over, after a period on attack; Slade converted and it was 15-14. They claimed a 20-15 lead when Slade kicked two penalty goals, then scored one of the tries of the season when Ben Smith sliced open the defence and combined with Aaron Smith and Chris King before Slade finished the move in the corner.
The Sharks struck back and, after multiple phases, Bosman scored and Lambie converted to reduce the gap to three points, but neither team was able to breach the other's defence in the final 10 minutes.
The Highlanders produced great defence at the conclusion of an entertaining game (video available only in Australia)
Jonny Wilkinson is the face of Toulon but whisper it, they might be a better team without him. Paul Eddison examines the case for dropping the talisman
"It does sometimes get tough as you get older, but there's nothing else I'd rather do." Tom Hamilton talks to fly-half Dan Carter
Stingers, a rampaging Fijian and two Dannys looking to be champions of the world - Monday Maul looks at some key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring