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The Reds led 31-29 going into the final few minutes but the Highlanders made a nice break and flanker Dillon Hunt scored out wide.
The Reds threw everything at the Highlanders but the home team made the score that mattered.
Best for the home team were backs Matt Faddes, Josh Ioane and Ben Smith while forward Hunt and Shannon Frizell were industrious.
The first half had plenty of enterprise and attack as both sides looked dangerous on attack.
The Highlanders scored the first try through Rob Thompson after a nice angle from Ben Smith opened up the gap for Thompson to score.
The Reds though did not sit back and scored through winger Chris Feauai-Sautia after some sloppy defence by the Highlanders.
The home team replied with tries to flanker Shannon Frizell and Ben Smith. But the Reds had the last say of the first half with a nice try to halfback Moses Sorovi though the pass he received to get the try was at least a metre forward.
The Highlanders were ahead 24-17 at the break.
Highlanders 36 (Rob Thompson, Shannon Frizell 2, Ben Smith, Dillon Hunt tries; Josh Ioane 4 con, pen) Reds 31 (Chris Feauai-Sautia, Moses Sorovi, Izack Rodda, Feao Fotuaika tries; Bryce Hegarty 4 con, pen) Halftime: 24-17 Highlanders