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The Highlanders cashed in a chunk of luck in today's Super XV semi-final win

And they deserved every slice they got on the road to an all-New Zealand Super Rugby final.

SYDNEY’S ALLIANZ STADIUM was a wall boos midway through the second half of today’s second Super Rugby semi-final.

The derision was aimed squarely at referee Craig Joubert for what the partisan home fans viewed as a series of decisions gifted to Highlanders during their win over the Waratahs.

Australia New Zealand Super Rugby Source: Rick Rycroft

MIchael Cheika’s side got off to a good start with Rob Horne grounding a try from Bernard Foley’s cross-field kick. After that, the luck started turning the way of New Zealand’s southern province.

Wycliff Palu’s attempted pass to Nick Phipps was intercepted by Aaron Smith just 10 metres out.

a ron smith

Though Foley continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over when the Kiwis killed the home attacks at source, there was a second fortunate try to be mined by the visitors.

Richard Buckman carried the ball up a blind alley, but found two weak tackles that put him to the floor, but didn’t keep him there.

buckman miracle

That was when the crowd first turned on Joubert as he ruled that the centre had not been held in the tackle. On the replay, it looks a good decision and the Highlanders took a 15 – 14 lead in to the half-time break.

12 minutes after the break, Waisake Naholo got on the end of a perfectly weighted grubber kick to the in-goal area to put the New Zealanders back in front, 17 -20.

naholo

Then came the moment that really infuriated the home fans and Australian commentators. Wing Patrick Osborne was driving towards the line, but was held just short. After a TMO review, Joubert sin-binned blindside Jacques Potgieter for a swinging arm and awarded a penalty try.

pen try potgieter

If that double punishment was a slightly harsh call, there’s hardly any team you would begrudge it to less than the Highlanders. You make your own luck in sport and head coach Jamie Joseph has created a superb team culture and fluid style of play in Otago and Southland.

Australia New Zealand Super Rugby Nasi Manu celebrates with some travelling Highlanders fans. Source: Rick Rycroft

That brilliant style was on show before the finish: Lima Sopoaga placing his kick directly in to Osborne’s hands before the wing stepped his way in for their fifth try of the semi-final.

final nail

Joseph’s Highlanders took the second final berth to set up an All-New Zealand affair in Wellington next Saturday morning after the table-topping Hurricanes grabbed a four-try win of their own in a 29 – 9 win over the Brumbies.

As has been the case so often this season, Nehe Milner-Skudder created the game’s stand-out moment.
https://vine.co/v/eJKYb26LgUv

The prodigiously talented back made Nic White’s attempted cover tackle look ridiculously meek with a slight change of pace before offloading to help TJ Perenara in to a clear path to the try-line.

nms

The prodigiously talented back is a doubt for next weekend’s final however as he missed the second half of this semi-final to nurse a hamstring injury.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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