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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 14 December, 2018

The Highlanders played 68 minutes with 14 men and still should have beaten the Sharks

Lima Sopoaga helped the Highlanders take the lead despite Emery’s early red card, but his late drop-goal attempt was poor.

REIGNING SUPER RUGBY Champions The Highlanders coughed up what would have been a memorable win over the Sharks this morning.

The Kiwi side were reduced to 14 men from the 12th minute after centre Jason Emery rightfully picked up a red card for a reckless charge into fullback Willie Le Roux while he jumped to take a high ball.

At that point the Sharks led 6 – 3 through Garth April’s penalties and the visitors carried that lead through half-time in Dunedin.

However, they also took a sin-bin into the interval. Stephen Lewies was the first of two yellow cards issued to the Sharks, but it wasn’t until JP Pietersen picked up his on 52 minutes that the Highlanders looked ready to take the win.

Lima Sopoaga nudged the sides level at nine apiece and, five minutes later, the out-half attacked the line to make post-recycle space for Aaron Smith to feed Matt Faddes a hard route to a try in the corner.

The hosts had themselves to blame for the penalty that put the Sharks into the 14 – 15 lead that would prove to be the final scoreline though.

Source: SANZAAR/YouTube

After a probing Pietersen run was thwarted into touch, the champions attempted to run the ball from their own line before a horribly shanked clearance kick from Ben Smith improbably kept the pressure coming from five metres. Eventually April got the chance to slot the winning 76th minute penalty.

Yet the 14 men still had time, they still had the attacking threat and still built pressure and phases in the Sharks 22. But they did not have an out-half in clutch form, and Sopoaga’s late drop-goal attempt from the 22 drifted right of the posts.

Across the Tasman, Reece Hodge scored two tries to help the Melbourne Rebels power to a  36 – 14 win over the Cheetahs, who had led 10 – 14 at the half-time break.

Source: SANZAAR/YouTube

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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