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Highlanders extend Kiwi dominance, Waratahs go top of conference

Argentina’s Jaguares pulled off an upset 25-22 win over the Rebels this morning.

Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders celebrates his try.
Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders celebrates his try.
Image: Dianne Manson

THE OTAGO HIGHLANDERS downed the ACT Brumbies in Dunedin to reignite their Super Rugby championship hopes as the New South Wales Waratahs leapfrogged the Melbourne Rebels to the top of the Australian conference on Saturday.

The Highlanders bounced back from two consecutive losses to beat the Brumbies 43-17 while Argentina’s Jaguares pulled off an upset 25-22 win over the Rebels, who rejected a late chance to draw with a penalty in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to score a match-winning try.

The Waratahs capitalised on the Rebels slip-up beating the Queensland Reds 37-16 in Sydney with monster winger Taqele Naiyaravoro crossing for a try double.

In Japan, in the battle of the cellar dwellers, the Auckland Blues triumphed 24-10 over the Sunwolves to record their second win of the season.

The Highlanders picked up a bonus point with their six tries to two victory over the Brumbies and stretched New Zealand’s winning run over Australian sides to 34 matches.

The game swung midway through the second half when the Highlanders, leading 15-10 but down to 14 men with Lima Sopoaga in the sin bin, scored three tries in 10 minutes.

Waisake Naholo ignited the spree with an intercept as the Brumbies swarmed towards the line, and he sprinted the length of the field to score.

It eased the pressure on the Highlanders who followed up with tries to Ben Smith and Shannon Frizzel to open up a 36-10 lead.

Joe Powell scored for the Brumbies and Fletcher Smith for the Highlanders in the helter-skelter closing minutes.

“We lost our way a bit in that second half. Obviously that intercept hurt us,” Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano said, while Highlanders captain Ben Smith said it played into his side’s hands.

“When the game gets a bit unstructured that’s what we like,” Smith said.

Aaron Smith Aaron Smith. Source: Photosport/Joe Allison/INPHO

The Jaguares put behind a gruelling travel schedule to storm back from 14-3 down at half-time to overhaul the Rebels in Melbourne.

“It was a tough week for us, a long trip, but we wanted to win this game, I think we wanted to win it more than them,” Jaguares skipper Pablo Matera said.

The Rebels looked to be heading for victory when Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia engineered two tries with linebreaks but once he left the field with hamstring trouble early in the second half, the home side lacked direction.

They had a chance to snatch a draw in the final minute with a penalty after pounding the Jaguares defence over 34 phases, but decided to go for an all-or nothing shot at a winning try only to lose the ball and hand the Argentines their third win. It was the Rebels’ third loss.

The Waratahs claimed their fourth straight win and their eighth consecutive derby win against the Reds to take over at the top of the Australian conference.

Naiyaravoro now has scored seven tries in his past four games and he ran for more than 200 metres for a second consecutive week after scattering the Sunwolves last week.

In Tokyo, Jordan Hyland grabbed two of the four tries for the Blues who picked up a bonus point but remain at the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

The struggling Sunwolves, who scored only one try, stretched their losing streak to seven games and stay bottom-ranked in the Australian conference.

© – AFP, 2018

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