Super Rugby

Basement Battle: Highlanders maul Moana Pasifika




Highlanders mauled Moana Pasifika 37-17 in a one-sided Super Rugby Pacific at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

The Highlanders mauled their way to their first victory in eight Super Rugby matches, and a first win of the season, ending the club’s second-worst losing streak.

The hosts crossed six times under the roof, with all their tries coming, directly or indirectly, from mauls.

This was a brutal beatdown by the home team’s forwards in what was billed as “the battle of the basement” between the bottom sides in the tournament.

Mosese Dawai and Rhys Marshall both bagged braces, while Andrew Makalio and Folau Fakatava also dotted down.

Makalio could have had a second but some foolish play in the maul cost the hooker a second.

Mitch Hunt had a good display at first five-eighth, but his kicking from the tee was wayward. Hunt landed a penalty and two conversions from seven attempts for seven points.

Levi Aumua and Tima Fainga’anuku scored the tourist’s only tries, while veteran standoff Christian Leali’ifano added a penalty and two conversions (7 pts).

Moana had, up until tonight’s game, averaged 14 penalties per game so far, way too many for any kind of success.

The Otago outfit dismantled their ill-disciplined opposition, who conceded 16 penalties to five to go with two costly yellow cards.

The Dunedin men spent 13 minutes and 39 seconds inside the opposition’s 22 to the visitors spent only 3m17s in a one-sided game on New Zealand’s South Island.

Veikoso Poloniati’s (5) and Alamanda Motuga’s (12) yellow cards cost 17 points but should have been more but for profligacy – poor kicking and stout defending – by Aaron Mauger’s charges.

The Highlanders scored two late tries against Moana Pasifika to take a 17-10 lead into the sheds

Hunt converted Dawai’s third-minute score to open up an early lead, but 10 unanswered points put the visitors ahead inside a quarter of an hour.

Sam Gilbert strayed offside after an 11-phase Moana attack. Sekope Kepu opted for the points and Leali’ifano delivered.

Three minutes later, Danny Toala set up Aumua from close range. Leali’ifano’s conversion gave the islanders a deserved three-point lead.

Both teams searched for more points, but a game bereft of handling errors soon began to slow down and become disjointed once the mistakes mounted.

Tony Brown’s forwards began to assert their dominance at the end of the half. They won a series of penalties from mauls as the hosts turned the screw.

Gilbert went close before another well-worked driving maul saw Makalio flop over the chalk after the half-hour.

With a minute to go until halftime, Veikoso Poloniati was off for a side entry to the maul.

Makalio went close, but some Aaron Smith trickery set up Dawai for his second. Hunt missed both conversions.

Highlanders’ forwards turn pressure into points as Moana Pasifika forwards pay the price for their ill-discipline

Makalio thought he had a second soon after the restart, but the TMO chalked off the hooker’s score because of a forward pass in the maul.

Brown’s side battered the Moana try line with driving maul after driving maul as the tourists leaked penalties. Mauger’s side had conceded 13 penalties to four after 52 minutes.

Eventually, the pressure told, dam wall burst. A scrum penalty led to Hunt again going to the corner.

It took a couple of goes before substitute hooker Marshall peeled off the set-piece to score. Hunt’s kick hit the post.

Moana Pasifika hit back immediately after some sloppy play by the Highlanders’ backs.

Scott Gregory tried to run from his 22, was tackled and lost the ball in contact.

The visitors went wide to Fainga’anuku, who beat the cover defenders to the flag. Leali’ifano’s conversion curled through the posts to make it 22-17 on the hour.

Hunt added a penalty three minutes later after Chris Apoua’s indiscretion.

Moana’s ill-discipline continues as Landers pulled away late in the game

More ill-discipline saw the visitors concede eight penalties to none going into the final 10 minutes of the game.

It proved the difference because moments after Hunt’s penalty, Alamanda Motuga was sent to the sin-bin for a totting-up offence by his team.

Another maul was well defended, but Fakatava’s instincts for a gap paid dividends when the halfback darted blind to make open up a two-score advantage.

Marshall collected his second when he broke off another maul to reach over and score.

The try, with minutes remaining, ended a scolding day at the coal face for the Pacific islanders. They will need to address their temperament if they are to gain anything from their inaugural season in Super Rugby.

The Highlanders, on the other hand, will hope this much-needed win propels them forward going into the second half of the campaign.

More to follow.

Final Score: Highlanders 37 (17) Moana Pasifika 17 (10)


Tries – Dawai (2), Makalio, Marshall (2), Fakatava
Pen – Hunt
Con – Hunt (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Moana Pasifika
Tries – Aumua, Fainga’anuku
Pen – Leali’ifano
Con – Leali’ifano (2)
Drop –
Cards – Poloniati (Yellow, 39′), Motuga (Yellow, 67′)


Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2: Jono Bredin
TMO: Aaron Paterson


Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Mosese Dawai, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Ethan De Groot.

Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Vilimoni Koroi, 23 Denny Solomona.

Moana Pasifika: 15 William Havili, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Penitoa Finau, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Solomone Funaki, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Veikoso Poloniati, 3 Sekope Kepu (captain), 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.

Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Chris Apoua, 19 Sione Tu’ipulotu, 20 Mahonri Ngakuru, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Lincoln McClutchie, 23 Fine Inisi.

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