The Highlanders giveth, then taketh away

Tevita Li, of the Highlanders, fends off Tom English, of the Rebels, during the round 19 Super...
Tevita Li, of the Highlanders, fends off Tom English, of the Rebels, during the round 19 Super Rugby match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday night.PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The Highlanders were both the giver and receiver at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.

The side won out over the Rebels 43-37, after the visitors were ahead 24-22 at the break.

It was a funny old game. There were 80 points scored and the Highlanders would have been the architects of about 70 of them.

The home side scored some great tries of their own, but also gave the Rebels plenty of points.

Rebels first five-eighth Reece Hodge scored three tries and 29 points all up, and was handed two of those tries on a plate - both stemming from poor kicks by the Highlanders.

The home side tried too hard at times, and also rushed things when it did not have to.

But it rolled up its sleeves when it was down 34-22 nearly halfway through the second half and came home well.

That was helped by the impact of the bench, with coach Aaron Mauger paying tribute to the input of the players who came on in the second half of the game.

"I thought our bench was outstanding. Guys who came on made a real difference. Josh McKay, big moment, Matt Faddes, big moment, Greg Pleasants-Tate, outstanding, Kalolo Tuiloma, outstanding, so I think those boys really [came] on with good impetus," he said.

It was a slow start from the Highlanders, with the Rebels up 17-3 after 20 minutes.

"We knew they would come out and put a bit of pressure on us. We knew they would come out with plenty of intensity and emotion in ... their game.

"But I'm really proud of our guys. How we hung in there, rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in.

"It is about holding the ball for longer periods and building pressure. Every time we held the ball for a decent period we scored points.

"It is a pretty simple, easy game at the end of the day."

The Highlanders came back well in the back end of the first half. Winger Waisake Naholo showed blistering balance and speed to sprint down the right hand side and score to get the Highlanders back into the game. That was followed by a nice try from halfback Kayne Hammington, scored following a good run by Tei Walden.

The second half started poorly for the home team as Hodge burgled another try and then added a penalty.

But the Highlanders got themselves right and came home in the final 20 minutes with tries to Tevita Li, Pleasants-Tate and Tom Franklin.

Lima Sopoaga missed just one conversion all night - it hit the post - and had a fine contribution in what is likely to be his final game at home for the Highlanders.

Walden also performed well and Naholo was a handful, while up front Liam Squire and Jackson Hemopo were physical.


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