Super Rugby

Fakatava inspires Highlanders to victory over Reds

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Highlanders beat Queensland Reds 19-27 in a tight Trans-Tasman Super Rugby Pacific clash at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.

The Highlanders fought back from 12-0 down to claim a well-deserved win against the much-fancied Queensland Reds in the Sunshine State.

Folau Fakatava came off the bench to inspire his side to a comeback win over the home team.

Fakatava set up a try and scored one of his own to open up a two-score lead in the final quarter of an hour.

The feisty scrumhalf replaced skipper Aaron Smith and promply changed the game with his trickery, skill, and eye for a gap.

Tony Brown’s charges had only won two Super Rugby matches this season, while Brad Thorn’s slick side had claimed seven victories before this defeat.

Both teams shared three tries apiece in a see-sawing game down under.

Jock Campbell, Josh Flook, and Ryan Smith all crossed for Queensland, but it was not enough for the 2021 Super Rugby AU champions.

Lawson Creighton had another promising game at first receiver for the Reds. The 23-year-old set up both Campbell and Flook’s tries.

The young standoff had an iffy day from the tee, kicking two conversions; however, he is one for the future.

Trailing by 12 points, the visitors fought back to lead 13-12 and 20-19.

The New Zealanders struck late to hold on for back-to-back wins for the first time versus the Reds, and this torrid campaign.

Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Scott Gregory, and Fakatava dotted down for the Highlanders, who notched a fifth win in a row versus the Reds.

Mitch Hunt kicked two penalties and one conversion (8 pts), while Marty Banks landed two conversions (4 pts) as the Landers came back to take the points.

After winning seven of their eight previous Super Rugby matches, the Reds have now lost three on the bounce to slip down the  Super Rugby Pacific table.

The Queensland Reds edged the Highlanders two tries to one in a tight first half in Brisbane

The Reds took a slender 12-10 lead into the shed after the Highlanders had two players yellow carded.

Campbell opened the scoring in the 17th-minute before Flook doubled the lead 12 minutes later.

Umaga-Jensen pulled a score back for the Dunedin men. Hunt converted and added a late goal to cut the deficit.

Both kickers had a poor day from the tee, each missing twice in the first period.

Hunt and Creighton both pulled their first penalty attempts wide before two cards saw Josh Dickson and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u sent to the naughty step for illegal tackles.

The Reds, however, did not take advantage of their numerical advantage. The Kiwis kept the Aussies at bay while Dickson was in the bin.

However, the visitors lost Mikaele-Tu’u four minutes afterwards, and the hosts struck.

The Reds only managed five points while the Highlanders had 13 players, but they did score when 15v15.

Harry Wilson combined with Creighton to send Campbell away down the lefthand sideline.

The Highlanders ran out of numbers, with two players on the bench, and the home team finally punished the visitors.

Creighton missed an easy conversion before Hunt, on 23 minutes, shanked another shot at goal.

With the Kiwis back to their full quota, skipper Tate McDermott had no option but to eschew the points.

McDermott, instead, opted for a kick to the corner – and it paid off.

Queensland could not get their maul going; however, several phases from the lineout, they found a way over.

Creighton spotted his opposite number isolated on the wing. He dropped back in the pocket and sent a pin-point crossfield kick for Flook.

Flook (6 ft 1 in) outjumped the diminutive Hunt ( 5 ft 10 in) to score near the flag. Creighton finally found his radar to make it 12-0 on the half-hour.

The Highlanders find their mojo, pulling back Queensland’s deficit to take an early second-half lead

Three minutes later, Umaga-Jensen put on his dancing shoes and evaded five defenders to score.

Seru Uru, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, and Hamish Stewart’s weak attempts allowed the centre to beat Campbell to put the Landers on the board. Hunt added the extras.

McDermott’s intercept-try got chalked off after the TMO ruled Jordan Petaia knocked the bouncing ball forward before James Lentjes gathered.

The Otago men won a late penalty to cut the gap to two points at halftime.

Wilson left the field on a stretcher soon after the interval after receiving a heavy but legal blow from Billy Harmon near the Highlanders’ try line.

Hunt added a second goal to put the Highlanders ahead for the first time in the game.

But six minutes later, the Brisbane team finished off a long sustained attack inside the opposition’s 22 to make it 19-13.

Ryan Smith crashed over after not being held in the tackle.

Folau Fakatava comes on to change the game as the Highlanders pull clear of the Reds in the final quarter

Aaron Smith, talking after the match, said he told Fakatava to get ready because he thought the halfback would come on and change the game. And that he did.

The 22-year-old scrumhalf came on after 55 minutes and assisted Gregory’s score. Six minutes later, he scored himself.

Brown’s men fought back with a magical try involving Gregory and Fakatava after a dozen-phase attack.

Fakatava, near the line, broke off the ruck to the right and played a wonderful behind-the-back pass to Gregory to go over untouched.

Banks, on for Hunt, converted and put the tourists one point ahead for the second time.

The Otago men were flying. A couple of driving mauls came to nothing.

A goalline attack ended with Fetuli Paea going close before Fakatava picked up and dived over unscathed.

Banks slotted the conversion to open up a two-score lead with less than 14 to play.

The Reds did not bother the Highlanders’ line, and the Dunedin men held on for a rare win in 2022.

Final Score: Reds 19 (12) Highlanders 27 (10)

Scorers

Reds
Tries – Campbell, Flook, Smith
Pen –
Con – Creighton (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries – T. Umaga-Jensen, Gregory, Fakatava
Pen – Hunt (2)
Con – Hunt, Banks (2)
Drop –
Cards – Dickson (Yellow, 13′), Mikaele-Tu’u (Yellow, 17′)

Match Officials
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Reuben Keane
Assistant Ref 2: James Palmer
TMO: James Leckie

Teams

Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Lawson Creighton, 9 Tate McDermott (captain), 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Seru Uru, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Richie Asiata, 1 Dane Zander.

Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Albert Anae, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Spencer Jeans, 22 Filipo Daugunu, 23 Mac Grealy.

Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 12 Fetuli Paea, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 James Lentjes, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan de Groot.

Replacements:
16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Mau, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Mosese Dawai.

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