Super rugby Trans Tasman

Gregory at the double as Highlanders down Force

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The Highlanders downed the Western Force 15-25 in a fierce Round Two Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash at HBF Park, Perth.

Scott Gregory bagged a brace in the Highlanders’ four tries to two victory under the lights in Western Australia.

Jona Nareki and Ayden Johnstone also scored for the Highlanders, while Tomas Cubelli and Angus Wagner dotted down for the Western Force.

Tim Sampson’s team is building a reputation for being feisty, and tough to beat.


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The Perth-based franchise had a decent Super Rugby AU finishing third above the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs.

Sampson’s men are no walk-overs in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman crossover either, narrowly losing 20-19 at the death to Super Rugby Aotearoa finalists the Chiefs.

The 10-point victory is the first time the Otago franchise has registered back-to-back wins in Super Rugby since 2019.

Tony Brown’s charges took a deserved three tries to one 20-10 halftime lead

However, a stale second half saw each side only manage a try apiece as the New Zealanders hung on for a hard-fought win.

Nareki, Johnstone, and Gregory all crossed for the Highlanders. Cubelli, playing his 50th Super rugby match, scored on the stroke of halftime to cut the deficit.

Nareki’s 13th-minute converted opener gave the visitors an early lead. Johnstone crashed over 10 minutes later to make it 12-0.

Domingo Miotti, on for the concussed Jack McIntyre, put the Force on the board after 28 minutes.

Miotti’s penalty, however, was cancelled out by Mitch Hunt’s goal, four minutes later.

Gregory barged his way over the chalk moments later to give the Landers a 17-point with two minutes remaining in the half.

But Cubelli’s converted try a minute later, got the hosts back in the game.

A poor second stanza saw one try apiece as both teams errors mounted and the game broke up

The second half was an arm-wrestle as both teams probed in search of the game-changing score. It took 21 minutes before the first points of the second stanza were scored.

Greg Holmes received a yellow card on the hour for a stray arm to Tim Anstee’s head, and it proved decisive, if not costly.

The Kiwis kicked to the corner, and several phases later, Gregory had a second try of the night.

Hunt, who had a poor night with the boot, both from the tee and out of hand, missed his third conversion.

The Landers’ lead was 15 going into the final quarter of the contest and it should have been more.

Referee Nic Berry cost the Highlanders seven points – and a bonus-point win – when he wrongly called a forward pass from Kane Hammington to Josh Ioane with 11 minutes to play.

Mr. Berry apologised to the Dunedin side for jumping the gun because Ioane was walking under the posts.

Instead of the Highlanders leaving with all five points, they left with four. They probably should have sealed the bonus-point but profligacy hampered Brown’s side.

Kazuki Himeno had a try chalked off soon after Ioane’s but this time the referee made the correct call, ruling the No 8 had not released before picking up the ball to score.

The home team did not give up though, and they managed to score at the death when Wagner crashed over with a minute on the clock.

Final Score: Western Force 15 (10) Highlanders 25 (20)

Scorers

Western Force
Tries – Cubelli, Wagner
Pen – Miotti
Con – Miotti
Drop –
Cards – Holmes (Yellow, 59′)

Highlanders
Tries – Nareki, Johnstone, Gregory (2)
Pen – Hunt
Con – Hunt
Drop –
Cards –

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

Teams

Western Force

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Kyle Godwin (captain), 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson

Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ollie Callan, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Jake Strachan

Highlanders

15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Sio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone

Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Kazuki Himeno, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Ngantungane Puniva

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