Jack Regan made his Super Rugby Aotearoa debut. Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO
Irish Abroad

23-year-old Birr man Regan makes Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders

The Crusaders came out on top in the Super Rugby Aotearoa opener in Dunedin.

23-YEAR-OLD Irish second row Jack Regan enjoyed a fine Super Rugby Aotearoa debut for the Highlanders as Tony Brown’s side opened their season with a 26-13 defeat to the Crusaders.

The Crusaders, who are the defending champions in New Zealand, started well to race into a 14-0 lead inside the first quarter and sealed their win with a maul try in the closing stages.

Despite the result, it was a positive first outing at this level for Birr native Regan, who got through 66 minutes of action in the second row for the Highlanders.

Former Ireland U20 international Regan only moved to New Zealand last year after Ulster opted against retaining him following three seasons in the northern province’s academy.

The Offaly man joined the Dunedin Sharks club last March, just before the Covid-19 lockdown hit New Zealand, but he impressed upon rugby’s return to action in June and earned a place in Otago’s Mitre 10 Cup squad.

Regan, the son of former All-Ireland hurling winner Daithí, was excellent for Otago in his nine starts in the Mitre 10 Cup – the level below Super Rugby in New Zealand – and convinced the Highlanders to bring him on board on a training contract for this year.

The Irishman had a strong pre-season with the Dunedin-based franchise and got the nod to start today’s Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Crusaders as his rise continues.

the-highlanders-perform-a-haka The Highlanders' pre-game haka. Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Regan was part of the Highlanders’ pre-game haka at Forsyth Barr Stadium and was then involved in an early tussle with Crusaders and All Blacks prop Joe Moody, who was not yellow-carded despite striking Regan several times with an open palm.

Solid at set-piece time, Regan’s handling skills were on display as he made three passes while the Highlanders worked their way back into the game after the Crusaders’ fast start to trail 14-13 early in the second half.

However, it wasn’t to be a happy outcome for Brown’s men as the Crusaders started the new season in winning fashion. Hooker Codie Taylor showed great pace to score their first try after a nice tip-on pass from All Blacks team-mate Sam Whitelock.

Scrum-half Bryn Hall notched their second as he got onto the end of a clever infield kick from wing Sevu Reece, but the Highlanders hit back with an excellent score by back row Shannon Frizell from a smart scrum play. 

Brown’s men got back within a point thanks to a penalty just after half time, but the Crusaders got the job done as Reece finished deftly in the right corner and replacement hooker Brodie McAllister dotted down at the tail of a maul to seal the deal.

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