Highlanders hold on in Sydney


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Peter Hewat missed a final minute conversion to leave his Waratahs one point short to the Highlanders, losing 25-26 in Sydney on Saturday.

What a difference a try makes! And what a try! What a magnificent try!

Against the Crusaders a few weeks ago teenager Lachlan Turner scored the best individual try of the 2007 Super 14. This evening in Sydney he sparked the best team try of the 2007 Super 14 and started a revival. Suddenly the wilting Waratahs perked up and came of-so close to winning a match that they seemed doomed to lose.

The last 13 minutes of the match made the match and produced exquisite excitement – agonising but exquisite.

Turner started it. He went back top a metre or so from his goal-line to fetch a rolling kick, and then he started running – speeding, skating, swerving nearly 40 metres till Jimmy Cowan got him down. 27 passes later teenager Josh Holmes took a pass from Peter Hewat, beat Nick Evans and got away from two others to score at the posts.

When Turner got the ball he was on the left. From Turner the ball went right and then left and then right and then left and then right and then left to Holmes. Holmes handled five times before getting the final pass, Tuqiri three times, Palu twice. Palu’s second grab at the ball was a significant one as he burst down the right before giving to Hewat who gave to Turner. What a try!

It should be kept preserved forever as an example of the glory that can be rugby football.

When Turner picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it, as the commemorative plaque says William Webb Ellis did in 1823, the Highlanders were leading 23-6 and the interest was only whether or not they would get a bonus point. The Waratahs had run all over the show without looking like scoring a try. The Highlanders had three tries.

The Waratahs had had a horrible start, rickety and nervous. Tom Donnelly charged down a clearance by Sam Norton-Knight in their uncertainty. The first try was started by Nick Evans on the far right and scored on the far left. Evans chipped inside his own half and caught the ball on the full. He gave to captain Josh Blackie who went left where fullback James Wilson slid a grubber into the Waratahs’ in-goal and speedster Viliame Waqaseduadua had not difficulty in beating the defence to the try.

Craig Newby was twice penalised at tackles and Hewat put the Waratahs ahead 6-5. At this time the Waratahs had righted their ship and were sailing well.

When Rocky Elsom was penalised for an air tackle at a line-out, Evans made it 8-6 and then 13-6. Jimmy Cowan tapped a free kick at a scrum and there was Evans in an outside centre position to cut inside and score the try.

Evans made the next try as well when from a scrum he again popped up at outside centre, made the running and gave inside to Jason Kawau who scored.

Half-time came with the score 20-6 in the favour of the Highlanders.

The Highlanders were winning but they lost the second half, and almost the match. In the second half they scored just two penalty goals when the Waratahs – Tatafu Polota-Nau and Al Baxter – were penalised at tackles. With 28 minutes to go they led 26-6. They still led 266-6 with 13 minutes to go but their situation looked comfortable, their position unthreatened. And then along came Turner.

Holmes’s try made the score 26-13 and the Waratahs nearly scored immediately afterwards and Palu again burst ahead but Ben Jacobs opted not to pass to Tuqiri who would have had a long run to the posts but one you would have bet on.

With five minutes to go Holmes tapped a penalty and darted. He dummied and darted again. Tackled he popped the ball to Hewat who scored at the posts. 26-20 with five minutes left.

Two minutes later the match was poised on the agony of a conversion. Tuqiri forsook his butterfly running and burst straight ahead between Donnelly and Chris King. Wilson grabbed a foot to bring the big man down but Baxter was there to carry it on. Baxter tackled, Elsom was on hand to give to Daniel Halangahu who slipped a grubber in behind the advancing Highlanders. They seemed to have the ball covered but as it stood up in front of Wilson Hewat snatched it. The fullback beat Waqaseduadua and scored in the right corner as Cowan covered.

The tension was painful.

Hewat had cramp and had to be helped. But he was to kick the conversion.

You tightened every fibre of your being.

Hewat kicked and the ball flew high but to the left of the far upright. 26-25 with perhaps two minutes to play.

The Highlanders kicked off and Lucky Mulipola got to the kick-off and was off to score but was called back for a knock-on.

Scrum to the Waratahs. Was the miracle about to happen. Was the Waratah to turn into a phoenix?

The scrum was on, the final siren sounded, the Waratahs fumbled, the ball became unplayable and the final whistle went for glee or gloom. In Aussie Stadium it was mostly gloom.

Man of the Match: Lachlan Turner for sparking that great try and again giving all who saw it a glorious rugby moment to remember.

The scorers:

For the Waratahs:
Tries: Holmes, Hewat 2
Cons: Hewat 2
Pens: Hewat 2

For the Highlanders:
Tries: Waqaseduadua, Evans, Kawau
Cons: Evans
Pens: Evans 3

Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Sam Harris, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Josh Holmes, 8 David Lyons, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Matt Dunning
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Tim Davidson, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Nathan Sievert, 21 Chris Siale, 22 Daniel Halangahu

Highlanders: 15 James Wilson, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Jason Kawau, 12 Aaron Bancroft, 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Josh Blackie (c), 6 Craig Newby, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Filipo Levi, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Jason Macdonald, 17 Chris King, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Hale T-Pole, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Charlie Hore, 22 Matthew Saunders.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: Willie Roos (South Africa), Geoff Acton (Australia)
Television match official: Paul Marks (Australia)
Assessor: Andrew Cole, Paul Ramsay

365 Digital

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