Highlanders winger Kade Poki scores against the Chiefs at
the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.
Super Rugby has officially kicked off in New Zealand and
what a game it was to open up with.
The Highlanders took on the reigning champs the Chiefs, who
look like they will not relinquish their trophy without a
After the initial 'feel out' period for each team, a bunch of
schoolboy turn-overs as well as a high penalty count the game
turned into a fast-paced end to end competition similar to
that of playing a game of Jonah Lomu Rugby.
Thirteen minutes was all it took for the game to start to
open up when local hero Ben Smith gathered a ball off his
toes from Lima Sopoaga and barged his way over from 10m to
score right beside the posts. Smith was on fire all game,
carving up from the fullback position. His running and vision
on attack is going to be so important to the Highlanders
throughout the 2013 season. He certainly showed us why he is
an All Black.
Smith was found out not long after his great try-scoring
efforts, however, as Chiefs centre and probably the best
player on the park all night Tim Nani-Williams made a break
from a set piece. As new recruit Ma'a Nonu rushed out of the
line he created a hole for Williams which he breezed through
and then gassed Smith on the outside for his first try of the
On the stroke of half-time, stand-in captain Hosea Gear
scored a great try showing exceptional pace and power to get
past, as Justin Marshall said, "a thousand Chiefs defenders".
With Sopoaga converting the Highlanders ran into the sheds at
the break with their heads held high as they were only
When the second half kicked off, the Highlanders seemed to
pick up where they left off. Hot on attack. They secured a
penalty almost out in front which was converted. The 'Landers
managed only a couple of more scoring plays. A try to the
powerful Kade Poki which was converted and another penalty.
Once the 60min mark hit the game really began to open up. For
about five minutes the ball travelled end to end about five
or six times before Nani-Williams found himself with one to
beat. He tippy-toed his way around the Otago defender and ran
the best part of 70m and collapsed over the line to score his
second for the night.
The Highlanders fought hard to get back in the game but
forcing plays and passes never works and they were not able
to get themselves back in the game. Gareth Anscombe put it
out of reach with his fourth and fifth penalties taking the
Chiefs to an opening 41-27 victory, which to be fair to the
Highlanders is not a fair reflection of how the game went.
It's great to see rugby back for 2013 and if this first up
contest is anything to go by we are in for one hell of a
season. All in all, not a bad first outing for the
Highlanders as they showed they are capable of scoring points
with relative ease.
Once a few of the older heads return, like Andrew Hore, and
big bad Brad Thorn as well as Colin Slade their defence
should tighten up. My early pick is for the Highlanders to
scrape their way into the top six.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Gldf1sh) to give me any
feedback through out the season or just talk Highlanders!
- Karl Tily