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Highlanders scalp Chiefs in Hamilton

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The Highlanders came from behind to upset the Chiefs 27-30 at the FMG Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.

Aaron Smith came off the bench and scored at the death to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for the Otago side.

Josh Ioane was solid at first five-eighth and Pari Pari Parkinson was everywhere, including the scoreboard.

Parkinson opened the scoring for the visitors and a wonderful cameo from the bench, and Shannon Frizell added to the Chiefs’ woes with another dominant display from the bench.

This was an impressive away turnout by Aaron Mauger’s team, who had more legs even when they went down to 14 players with 13 minutes remaining.

They twice overturned large deficits; one of 12 and one of 11 points. Impressive.

Anton Lienert-Brown was majestic, conjuring magic out of thin air, but it was not enough.

Etene Nanai-Seturo grabbed a brace and Tyler Ardron and Angus Ta’avao also crossed for the Chiefs as they took a nine-point lead at the break.

However, a spirited comeback led by the All Blacks halfback and the outstanding Josh Ioane, who kicked three penalties and three conversions for a match-haul of 15 points, took the Dunedin team over the line.

A contentious red card for Sio Tomkinson in the 67th-minute added to the drama of the opening game of the new Super Rugby season, but it only seemed to spur the Highlanders to a deserved win.

The game was played in perfect, late summer evening conditions, but both teams took a while to find their feet.

Although much of the game was being played between the 22s, the Highlanders enjoyed 75% possession and a good chunk of territory in the opening quarter.

It paid dividends when Parkinson crashed over after Liam Coltman had gone close.

The big man used his legs to drive through three Chiefs defenders. Josh Ioane added the extras.

Despite all the territory and possession, Mauger’s men couldn’t take full advantage, instead, it was the hosts who hit back five minutes’ later.

Kane Hammington’s kick was charged down before a comedy of errors – and poor hands – led to a Chiefs scrum, five metres out.

From the scrum, Ardron, the big Canadian No 8, ghosted through Hammington’s weak tackle to get his team on the board.

Brad Weber, somehow contrived to miss the simple conversion by hitting the left-hand post.

Lienert-Brown’s bag of tricks the moment of the match.

It was time for the Lienert-Brown show to take over.

Standing at first receiver, he took the ball between his 10m and 22, shaped to kick before stepping left, sending James Lentjes and Jackson Hemopo to the shops.

The All Blacks centre danced forward towards the traffic, shifted right, slipping Tyrel Lomax’s tackle and then offloading out-the-back-door to Bailyn Sullivan.

The winger raced inside Highlanders territory, chipped and regathered his kick near the try line.

He was tackled by Ioane and Luke Whitelock, but a double clean out by Weber and Brodie Retallick allowed Lienert-Brown to receive quick ball.

Video Highlights: Chiefs versus the Highlanders.

He duly popped to the onrushing Ta’avao for the try – sensational. This time Weber could not miss.

The momentum had shifted, and the Highlanders were creaking. Shaun Stevenson missed a long-range attempt to give the hosts an eight-point advantage.

Stevenson threw a pass into touch and some poor play, halted the momentum.

But Lienert-Brown and Nathan Harris combined, on the short side, to send Nanai-Seturo over in the corner. 19-7 with 90 seconds to go to the break.

The turn of the tide.

The Chiefs should have taken a decent lead into the break, instead, they gave away two cheap penalties either side of halftime, allowing Ioane to reduce a 12-point deficit to six.

The game turned after that, and the early introduction of Aaron Smith.

However, there was more time for some Chiefs’ witchcraft.

Nanai-Seturo walked over after collecting Orbyn Leger’s pin-point cross kick.

Leger had started the attack after gathering his own chip-kick, in the build-up.

Surely, the hosts would not blow an 11-point lead. Weber left the field holding his shoulder, and despite the cowbells serenading the team, things turned for the worse.

Comeback 2.0.

The game entered the final quarter with the visitors still trailing.

Shannon Frizell powered over after gathering Lomax’s offload. The burly prop burst through a ruck and offloaded to the winger for the score.

Then came the sending off of Tomkinson, five minutes after coming on.

Stephen Donald kicked the resulting penalty. The bizarre call did not deter the Highlanders, though. Instead, they upped the ante.

Ioane cancelled Donald’s penalty with one of his own before another one of Aaron Smith’s trademark sniping runs, won the game for the Highlanders.

Final scoreChiefs 27 (19) Highlanders 30 (10)

Scorers

Chiefs
Tries – Ardron, Ta’avao, Nanai-Seturo (2)
Pen – Donald
Con – Weber (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries – Parkinson, Frizell, A. Smith
Pen – J. Ioane (3)
Con – J. Ioane (3)
Drop –
Cards – Tomkinson (Red, 67′)

Match Officials
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Ref 2: Nick Briant
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Teams

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Telani Seu, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Jackson Hemopo, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Patelesio Tomkinson.

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