Gear seals thrilling Highlanders win
March 3, 2012
The Reds celebrate Radike Samo's try against the Western Force © Getty Images
A late try from winger Hosea Gear helped the Highlanders claim a 27-24 victory over the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday.
The hosts were trailing 24-20 with ten minutes remaining when the All Blacks winger dived in at the left corner to finish a slick move from the backs. Lima Sopoaga added the conversion to ensure the Highlanders went to the top of the New Zealand conference after beating the Chiefs in their opening fixture.
The Highlanders had established a 20-10 lead after tries from Andrew Hore and Phil Burleigh and two conversions and three penalties from Sopoaga. The Crusaders, though, clawed their way back into the contest with a try from Andy Ellis and three penalties from fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal, to add to an earlier converted try from Israel Dagg and penalty from Bleyendaal.
The Crusaders still had chances to grab a draw following Gear's score with Bleyendaal slicing a drop-goal attempt wide and landing a penalty effort a metre short.
The Highlanders were playing the first match in their new stadium in front of 23,000 fans after a tumultuous week which ended with the Otago Rugby Football Union still seeking to avoid liquidation.
Mike Harris maintained his imperious kicking form to guide Super Rugby reigning champions the Reds to a 35-20 victory over the Western Force in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Reds' fly-half landed two conversions and seven penalties for a personal haul of 25 points, to add to his 20 points against the Waratahs last weekend, as the Queensland franchise took charge of the Australian conference.
In the absence of the charismatic Quade Cooper, who is still a few months away from action, the 23-year-old Kiwi proved a sure source of points and a pragmatic option in attack for the Reds. He landed an early penalty before Will Genia created the opening try with a sharp dart down the blindside and terrific offload to Ben Tapuai, who sprinted in at the corner. Harris added the touchline conversion.
The Force kept in the game with two penalties from James Stannard. But that accuracy was undone when the fly-half threw an inside ball into the grasp of Radike Samo and the Reds' No.8 out-ran the cover to touch down. Harris continues his faultless kicking display to establish a 26-6 lead.
The visitors fought back with converted tries from Stannard, who ended with 15 points, and captain David Pocock but Harris had the final say with three further penalties.
Peter Grant returned from his travels to kick the Stormers to a 15-12 victory over the Sharks on Saturday.
The fly-half, who has spent recent months playing in Japan, came on as a replacement and took over the kicking duties from the misfiring Joe Pietersen. The fullback had landed three successful kicks but sent four wide over the course of the game.
Grant kept his nerve in the 77th minute to angle in a brilliant penalty from the touchline, adding to an easier effort on the hour mark when Sharks lock Ross Skeate saw yellow for not rolling away. The visitors - who lost to the Bulls last weekend - managed four penalties from fly-half Pat Lambie in a game heavy on physicality but light on attacking invention.
After a stodgy win over the Sharks last weekend, the Bulls showed some style to smash the Cheetahs 51-19 in Bloemfontein.
The two-time champions ran in six tries and won with plenty to spare despite losing scrum-half Francois Hougaard to a red card. The Springbok was sent-off for a tip tackle, but his team-mates were able to close out the game with the last of their scores despite the numerical disadvantage.
Props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger scored the visitors' first tries from close range, with the Cheetahs coughing up two further scores - to Bjorn Basson and Zane Kirchner - just before the break.
Morne Steyn - who finished with 21 points - extended the lead before Hougaard left the scene, when Adriaan Strauss crashed over for the Cheetahs' sole try. Immediately after there was a crucial breakdown in communication, with JJ Engelbrecht's intercept try killing the comback dead. Kirchner showed fine skills to kick ahead and gather for his second, leaving the hosts with nothing.
The Chiefs notched their first victory over the fledgling Super Rugby campaign with a 29-14 win against the Blues in Hamilton on Friday night.
Edged out by the Highlanders in their opening clash last weekend, the Chiefs bounced back to winning ways thanks largely to a four-try burst in the first half of the clash at the Waikato Stadium. Prop Sona Taumalolo grabbed the first five-pointer with just four minutes on the clock and he was followed over the whitewash by winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma, scrum-half Tewera Kerr-Barlow and then winger Tim Nanai-Williams in the following half hour.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden converted three tries and also landed a penalty as the hosts built a commanding 29-6 lead at the break. Blues fly-half Michael Hobbs notched two first-half penalties and would also claim a conversion after replacement Sherwin Stowers grabbed a late consolation try for the Aucklanders who have now suffered back-to-back defeats.
The Waratahs also returned to winning ways with a 35-19 victory over the Rebels in their clash in Melbourne later in the day. The visitors, looking to turn things around after an agonising defeat to the Reds last time out, swept their Australian rivals aside with four tries to ensure a valuable bonus point. The Rebels took an early lead through the boot of centre James O'Connor, who finished the game with 14 points, but they were soon chasing the game with centre Tom Carter grabbing two tries and prop Sekope Kepu adding another before the break.
The Tahs heaped woes on the Rebels with another try from fullback Bernard Foley shortly after the re-start. A penalty try for the Rebels would give the scoreboard a little gloss but Waratahs fly-half Daniel Halangahu would have the final say with his second penalty to cap a 12-point haul.
And on Friday evening, the Hurricanes got their first win of the season away at the Lions downing the home side 30-28. After the Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett kicked them into the lead in just the fifth minute, the Lions struck back through Jaco Taute. Elton Jantjies failed to nail the conversion so Barrett's penalty five minutes later put the 'Canes back in the lead. And after the two fly-halves traded penalties, fullback Andre Taylor's score just before half-time meant the visitors went into the break 14-8 ahead.
Franco van der Merwe's try in the 54th minute along with Jantjies' conversion put the Lions ahead by a point but two quick-fire scores from the away side - with Dane Coles and Cory Jane going over - put them in the driving seat. However, Butch James crossed on the 70th minute to restore the Lions' one point lead only for Barrett to kick a late penalty to give the 'Canes their first win of the new campaign.
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