Highlanders withstand fightback

Liam Coltman pins his ears back to make a run for the Highlanders as Jaguares hooker Julian...
Liam Coltman pins his ears back to make a run for the Highlanders as Jaguares hooker Julian Montoya (face obscured) wraps a tackle around him during their match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday evening. Watching from the rear are (from left) Highlander Tom Franklin, Jaguares player Juan Manuel Leguizamon (headgear) and lock Lucas Paulos.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
This was a strange old game.

The Highlanders were expected to run the Jaguares round. The Jaguares were expected to tire as the game went on. The Highlanders were supposed to miss Ben Smith and the Highlanders would welcome back Liam Squire.

Well, the Highlanders kicked a lot of ball away. The Jaguares came home the stronger, helped by a powerful bench; the man who replaced Ben Smith - Matt Faddes - was one of the best for the Highlanders; while Squire was not sighted.

The script did not go to plan but the Highlanders did not care - they won 32-27 in another close game for the side at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.

The home side led 26-13 at the break and there was a feeling the Highlanders might put the hammer down and pull away from the Jaguares.

But all the Highlanders had to show for their efforts in the second half was two penalties from Josh Ioane, as the side could not break through the tough Jaguares defence.

The Jaguares helped themselves to two tries - through lock Marcos Kremer and winger Ramiro Moyano - and it was tight with 15 minutes to go.

In the end, neither team could score a try as the final stages of the game were dominated by the whistle of referee Ben O'Keeffe.

The Argentinians were not happy with some of the penalties dished out against them but at that time of the game any ruling is not going to be welcome.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said it was a win based on improved intensity.

"Happy to come away with the win but still not quite that polished performance we were looking for ... I was pretty happy with most of it, to be fair," he said.

"Our intensity was a step up from last week. I thought our management of the territory was good.

"They were a physical team and probably had their best players on the bench, so we knew it was going to be a physical finish. But I thought our guys came on well and did better than they did last week and inspired us with their actions which is exactly what we were after."

Ioane said there were some mixed patches in the game but he felt the hard work shown by the side was rewarded.

"It was a tough game but every game is a tough game. As a team, we need to bring it for the 80 minutes and it is showing in those last 10 minutes that are crucial. We've had some tight games but luckily this one went our way," Ioane said.

The Highlanders were trailing 13-12 just before halftime but scored a couple of tries, from Sio Tomkinson and Liam Coltman, which had them up 26-13 at the break.

Coltman was again good for the Highlanders, along with halfback Aaron Smith and lock Tom Franklin.

The numbers

Highlanders 32
James Lentjes, Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman tries; Josh Ioane 3 con, 2 pen

Jaguares 27
Matias Moroni, Marcos Kremer, Ramiro Moyano tries; Joaquim Diaz Bonilla 3 con, 2 pen

Halftime: 26-13 Highlanders
Crowd: 11,708


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