We had enough chances to win. —Chiefs captain, Sam Cane
Highlanders snatch an amazing win
By Roger Childs
The Super Rugby excitement continues. The Chiefs were playing at home against the Highlanders and raced out to a 24-0 lead after 21 minutes. Another 21 minutes on they were ahead 31-7. Then with five minutes to go, after conceding two tries, they were still in front 31-19. But a brilliant try by Highlander left wing Jona Nareki in the 75th minute closed the gap to 5 points.
However, with two minutes to go the Chiefs had a relieving penalty and only had to keep possession from the following lineout to run out winners, but they conceded a penalty themselves. The Highlanders won the ensuing lineout and inspirational Highlanders half back Aaron Smith put Sio Tomkinson in for a try close to the posts. Mitch Hunt duly kicked the conversion and the game was won by the visitors 33-31.
A game of two halves
The Chiefs had much the better of the first 42 minutes with quality tries to Lachlan Boshier and Anton Lienert-Brown. Boshier was a stand-out player for the home team and was responsible for a number of crucial turnovers. The Chiefs forwards also showed great skill with lineout drives close to the line and they exploited the visitors’ poor defensive technique to push Bradley Slate over for two tries.
At 31-7 ahead nobody would have expected anything but a home town win. But the Highlanders were getting more ball and seemed to constantly have an extra man available down the left flank. Aaron Smith was firing out quick passes from half back and two tries resulted from sweeping movements on this side of the field to Hunt and Nareki. Flanker Shannon Frizell was often prominent in the inter-passing and combined well with the backs.
However the key to the Highlanders unlikely victory was the leadership of Smith. He was constantly encouraging his players to greater efforts and lead by example in scoring the third try.
It was the fifth loss for the Chiefs in five games and they will have to dig deep to get something from their three remaining matches. The Highlanders can’t win the tournament, but this inspirational comeback win in Hamilton will have buoyed them up for their remaining games, the next being under the roof back in Dunedin.