Highlanders leave it till the last minute for win

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders passes during the round 3 Super Rugby match between the Brumbies...
Aaron Smith, of the Highlanders, passes during match against the Brumbies at GIO Stadium on Saturday in Canberra. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Win number one is on the board — and the Highlanders will gladly take it.

In what was a good old fashioned arm-wrestle, the Highlanders beat the Brumbies 23-22 in Canberra on Saturday night, winning the match in the fourth minute of added time.

Playing in wet conditions in which both teams got dragged into a physical encounter, the Highlanders kept their heads at the end to score a match-winning try.

The side led 13-12 at the break, which was pushed up

to 16-12 early in the second half.

The Highlanders had little ball in the first half, and only got near the Brumbies at the break through the efforts of winger Jona Nareki. He charged down a kick when the Brumbies had just received a kick-off.

The ball bounced right into Nareki's hands and he galloped over to score his second try in as many game for the Highlanders.

That put his side right back into the game and then a Josh Ioane penalty near the end of the first half had the side ahead at the break.

The game then went into trench warfare as the rain arrived in the second half.

The Highlanders had more territory than the home side, but could not get much continuity into their game.

When the Brumbies scored their third try — all of them to hooker Folau Fainga'a — to go ahead it looked like the Highlanders would come up short.

Down 22-16 with the clock counting down, the visitors swung down to Brumbies territory and skipper James Lentjes, who had an impressive game, managed to gain a penalty at the breakdown with less than 15 seconds left on the clock.

The Highlanders kicked for the corner and tried to drive for the line. It was not successful but again gained a penalty. Same result. No points but another penalty.

The Brumbies had lock Murray Douglas yellow carded for a lineout indiscretion. So now it was third time and hopefully lucky for the visitors.

The side could not get its maul going, but after getting near the line, the ball was moved to replacement loose forward Teariki Ben-Nicholas. Now, we do not know much about Ben-Nicholas. But he is big and strong.

He got the ball 5m out, blew over a Brumbies tackler down low and went over to score the wining try as the 84th minute clocked up.

Ioane knocked over the handy conversion to grab the win for the Highlanders.

It was a game which never reached great heights. There was plenty of whistle and the Brumbies were off-key. There is plenty of head scratching going on in Canberra about why crowds are not bigger. Perhaps the lineout drive tactic which appears to be the side’s number one attacking strategy has something to do with the empty stands.

Lentjes led the side well, while Josh Dickson and Siate Tokolahi also impressed up front. The backs did not see a lot of ball on the night, but were strong defensively.

Winger Sio Tomkinson was due to appear in front of a judicial hearing last night after he was yellow carded for a shoulder charge in a tackle.

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