Highlanders stay unbeaten, Force edge Tahs

Highlanders stay unbeaten



Replacement fly-half Chris Noakes landed a late penalty to give the Otago Highlanders a 19-17 win over the Wellington Hurricanes on Saturday and maintain their winning start to the Super Rugby season.

Noakes landed the 35 - metre effort from the right flank to make it four wins from four for the Highlanders and take them back to the top of the New Zealand conference.

The Highlanders failed to reach the high level of play they had demonstrated in the three previous wins but were happy to e dge another close - fought game.

"Four wins, pretty happy, but obviously a lot to work on," Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh said in a pitchside interview.

"We really know how to close out a game, there was a lot of composure. Winning instils confidence."

The visitors started strongly and looked like they would win comfortably as All Black fly-half Colin Slade stroked over two penalties , punishing the Hurricanes for routinely infring ing in the opening stages.

Slade then dived over from close range for the first try of the match in the 16th minute after scrum-half Jimmy Cowan's tap penalty and dart put them deep into Wellington's 22.

Slade swept over the conversion from in front of the posts to stretch the lead to 13-0 as the Highlanders looked like they were going to cut loose.

However, the Hurricanes emerged from their early slumber, fly-half Beauden Barrett kicking a penalty after 29 minutes to get them on the scoreboard.

Barrett then kicked an easy effort two minutes later before his pinpoint pass set up All Black winger Cory Jane for the Hurricanes' opening try in the 37th minute.

Barrett then sent over his third penalty from 35 metres right on halftime to send the home side into the break 14-13 ahead.

Slade slotted another penalty nine minutes into the second half to put the Highlanders back in front 16-14 after the Hurricanes infringed at a ruck.

The Highlanders were well on top and thought they had their second try as winger Kade Poki crossed after a sweeping move but replacement referee ruled it out for a forward pass.

Barrett converted another penalty from 40 metres to put the Hurricanes ahead 17-16 with 11 minutes remaining before Noakes struck after the home side were guilty of not releasing the ball.

"We had a bit of trouble getting out of our own zone," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said after their second defeat in four matches.

"To be honest both sides struggled. We could have ended up winning but we still wouldn't have been happy."


The 29-year-old Harvey, on a short-term contract as the Force struggle to cope with the many injuries to their squad, scored a try and kicked three penalties and a conversion to end his new side's run of three losses.

It was a fully deserved win for the Force, who controlled possession and territory for long periods and bossed the breakdown against a lethargic Waratahs side.

"Very proud of the team and the way we gutsed it out," Force captain and openside flanker David Pocock said in a pitchside interview.

"It's been a tough time as a group but we know where we are going and we have hung pretty tough and we have got our first win."

The home side started brightly with a try in the third minute, Wallabies utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper touching down after loitering at the back of a powerful Waratahs rolling maul.

Harvey slotted over a 10th-minute penalty to cut the deficit and the momentum swung fully in the Force's favour in the 16th minute when Waratahs lock Dean Mumm was sent to the sin bin.

A minute after the lock was penalised for hitting the ball out of the hands of Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan, Harvey crossed for a try after cutting a great line and collecting a nifty offload from flyhalf James Stannard.

The Force dominated possession from then on but conceded a second try just before halftime when Waratahs winger Tom Kingston collected a loose ball and won a sprint to the corner.

Television replays showed the try should not have been awarded with Waratahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, whose kick Kingston collected, knocking the ball on when he forced the turnover with a tackle.

Flyhalf Daniel Halangahu converted brilliantly from the touchline but another Harvey penalty cut the Waratahs lead to 14-13 at halftime despite the home side having only 25 percent of the ball.

Halangahu kicked two penalties and Harvey one at the start of the second half before the Force scored the game-winning try through Samu Wara.

Force lock Nathan Sharpe deftly flicked a pass to hooker Nathan Charles and he fed Wara with the winger cutting inside and touching down to give the visitors a 21-20 lead in the 64th minute.

"We let ourselves down and that is what is going to happen in Super Rugby if you don't turn up on your game," Halangahu said after the Waratahs' second loss in four matches.

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