Highlanders score late to claim thriller over Reds

Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizzell looks to step Reds fullback Bryce Hegarty in the teams'...
Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizzell looks to step Reds fullback Bryce Hegarty in the teams' Super Rugby clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium last night. Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith yells support behind Frizzell. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Phew, that was close. The Highlanders got home - just.

In a heart-stopping victory, the Highlanders beat the Reds 36-31 at Forsyth Barr Stadium last night.

The Reds came calling, threw it all out there and all but toppled the Highlanders.

But the home team does not know how to lose under the roof and, thanks to a late try to Dillon Hunt just under five minutes from fulltime, won the game.

The Reds never laid down and asked plenty of questions of the Highlanders.

For the bulk of the second half, the Reds had a monopoly of ball, their forwards ran hard and straight and their backs looked dangerous.

The home team knew it was in a real dog fight and had to go deep into the well to get a result.

It trailed 31-29 with 10 minutes left.

But it regained composure, replacement centre Matt Faddes made a nice break and eventually the ball went wide for Hunt to score.

Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith looks to clear the ball.
Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith looks to clear the ball.
The home team looked good in the first half but never had much ball in the second period and there were a few too many sloppy errors.

But the side still won and had enough skills on attack to close out the game at the end.

Faddes had a good game when he came on for Rob Thompson, who went off injured in the first half with a sore left ankle.

Josh Ioane stood out again, missing just one kick, while up front Shannon Frizell was tough, as were Tyrel Lomax and Hunt.

The Highlanders came out fast in the opening 40 minutes and had their first try after just six minutes.

The Reds opened the scoring after a couple of minutes through a Bryce Hegarty penalty but the Highlanders quickly swung on to attack.

The home team gained an attacking lineout and following a drive from the lineout the ball was shifted wide.

Ben Smith took a wide pass from Ioane and he created space for Thompson to run through the gap and score.

Ioane added the conversion and then knocked over a penalty following a blatant illegal slap down by Reds centre Jordan Petaia.

The Reds were staying in the contest as the Highlanders set piece struck problems. The visiting side tied the game up when winger Chris Feauai-Sautia fended off a poor attack from Highlanders winger Tevita Li and waltzed over.

But the Highlanders got their lineout working better and gained a try to put the home side back in front.

Josh Dickson took down the ball and the Highlanders drove almost to the line.

After a couple more attempts at the line, Frizell did his best rabbit impersonation, burrowing over to score.

Then, with eight minutes to go in the first half, Faddes split the Reds defence with a great angle.

The ball was then shifted wide to the left and captain Ben Smith strolled over.

The Highlanders were ahead 24-10 but could not hold that advantage, as Reds halfback Moses Sorovi went over after the Highlanders lineout again faltered and the Reds spun the ball wide.

The pass to Sorovi looked well forward.

 

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