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Highlanders

FULL-TIME
34     26

Crusaders

Super Rugby | Dunedin
07:35 (GMT) | 13-05-2016
  • 83
FULL-TIME! That is it from Dunedin and what a match it has been! What a start to an action packed weekend! Stay with us as we head to Melbourne where the Rebels host the Brumbies in an Australian derby!
  • 82
Mo'unga adds the extras with the final kick of the match
  • 81
After a number of phases, Read puts Dagg through a half gap and the fullback breaks two tackles to sprint away. A deserved score for Dagg! TRY TIME!!
  • 80
Highlanders have gone into defence mode and committing no numbers at the breakdown as the Crusaders look to find a way through but the movement is very lateral as they remain on the Highlanders' 10 metre line. PENALTY! Highlanders are caught offside and the Crusaders are running it once again
  • 79
The Crusaders have no option but to run the ball from inside their 22. PENALTY! Highlanders are offside at the breakdown and the Crusaders have found touch close to the halfway line. They secure the ball and are into the Highlanders' half
  • 78
The Highlanders have secured it and are into the Crusaders' 22. The forwards are going to work on the short side close to the right touchline but the Crusaders have managed to bundle them into touch
  • 76
It has taken some time for the scrum to set. FREE KICK! The Crusaders engage early and the Highlanders can relieve the pressure. Banks opts to keep the ball in field and puts it deep into the Crusaders' 22. The play is eventually brought to ground on the halfway line but the Highlanders are able to hack it forward. Crusaders scramble to retain possession and are forced to hoof it away. Line-out to the Highlanders close to the Crusaders' 22
  • 73
A kicking battle from the restart and Dagg secures it. He sets off on a run and gets the Crusaders to the Highlanders' 22. They recycle the ball and sends it to the other side of the field. Fekitoa puts in a tackle and holds his opponent up. He is joined by a few players and the Highlanders have forced the maul and turned possession over! Scrum feed to the Highlanders just outside their 22
  • 72
Sopoaga lines it up and splits the uprights to make it a 15 point game
  • 71
Some huge tackles are being made and the Highlanders' offload game is superb. They retain possession and it finds Liam Squire who bursts through to grab the score! TRY TIME!!!
  • 70
The Highlanders have stolen back possession and are on the run. Faddes makes another break but is brought down 5 metres short. They fling the ball to the other side of the field and the Crusaders are scrambling.
  • 69
The Highlanders have secured it and its gone a bit frantic. Play comes to an end with the Macilai-Tori knocking the ball on in his attempt to gather the ball off the grass. Highlanders will have the scrum feed close to the halfway line. The Highlanders have secured it and go straight onto the attack. They make it to the Crusaders' 22 but lose it and the Crusaders are running it from inside their 22
  • 68
The Highlanders steal the ball at the breakdown but they boot it away and the Crusaders are back in possession close to their 10 metre line. McNicholl is dragged into touch and the Highlanders will restart the match with the kine-out throw in
  • 66
It's a bot of a scramble at the moment as possession exchanges hands a few times. It's settled a little now with the Crusaders in possession on the halfway line
  • 65
The Highlanders are back to full compliment for this scrum and its a massive Crusaders shove but A Smith comes away with the ball
  • 64
Solid scrum this time by the Crusaders and the ball is flung to Dagg who breaks through but Naholo is there to bring him down. The ball is recycled but the Crusaders are in each others' way! Scrum feed to the Highlanders but the HANDBAGS are out yet again!
  • 63
Massive kicking battle breaks out from the restart and the Crusaders have settled it down. Dagg breaks through but B Smith is there to get his hand in the way to thwart the attack. Scrum feed to the Crusaders on the Highlanders' 10 metre line
  • 61
Mo'unga has not missed a kick yet and he keeps that record in tact by adding the extras!
  • 60
Highlanders secures the ball and kick it up field. The Crusaders have the ball and launch an attack from the halfway line. Read gets the ball and breaks through the line. Mo'uga is there in support and he makes a few metres. Dagg gets is and gets the Crusaders to the 5 metre line. the ball is sent wide and Jordan Taufua is through! TRY TIME!!!
  • 58
PENALTY! Hohneck Franks is penalised for dropping his bind and the Highlanders are elated! Sopoaga puts the penalty into touch just outside his 22
  • 57
Brilliant defence by the Highlanders sees them hold the Crusaders up. Play restarts with a Crusaders scrum on the Highlanders' 5 metre line
  • 56
Mo'unga finds touch inside the Highlanders' 22. They secure the ball but the Highlanders are being silly on defence. PENALTY! Dixon is caught on the wrong side of the ruck and the Crusaders have once again opted to have an attacking line-out. This time on the Highlanders' 5 metre line. The forwards look to bulldoze their way over
  • 55
The Highlanders run the ball up field but the Crusaders have won it back on the Highlanders' 10 metre line. PENALTY! Wheeler is penalised for a late shoulder charge on Mo'unga! That was a silly challenge and deserves a YELLOW CARD!
  • 53
Sopoaga slots another conversion as the Highlanders stretch their lead to 15 points
  • 52
Play remains inside the Highlanders' half. Faddes gets the ball and sets off once again! He sprints all of 60 metres and shows blistering speed to cut through the Crusaders defence! TRY TIME!!!
  • 50
Solid scrum by the Crusaders and Fonotia sets off. He loses the ball in a tackle and the Highlanders hack it ahead. They get into the Crusaders' 22 but the ball goes loose and the Crusaders hack it up field
  • 48
PENALTY! The Highlanders are offside at the line-out and the Crusaders are able to boot the ball up field. It fails to find touch and the Highlanders are running it from inside their half. The Crusaders have held the Highlanders up in a tackle and gains the scrum feed as the ball failed to emerge. Scrum will take place just inside the Highlanders' half of the field
  • 47
PENALTY! The Crusaders are penalised for advancing too early from the line-out and the Highlanders have a kick on the half-way line. Sopoaga finds touch inside the Crusaders' to setup an attacking line-out
  • 46
Highlanders have it but the Crusaders are up in their faces. PENALTY! Crusaders are penalised for having their hands in the ruck. Sopoaga finds touch on his 10 metre line to relieve the pressure
  • 45
A kicking battle breaks out and ends with Dagg placing a great kick from inside his half to find touch inside the Highlanders' 22. Highlanders with the throw in
  • 44
PENALTY! Naholo gets the ball at first receiver but is penalised at the breakdown for playing the ball on the ground. Crusaders find touch close to their 10 metre line
  • 43
The ball is secured and the forwards go to work. The ball is sent to the backline and Naholo tries to find Pryor but it fails to go to hand and dribbles into touch. Crusaders got a hand to it and the Highlanders are still on the attack
  • 42
The Highlanders secures it and another simple backline moves finds Faddes. He breaks through once again and offloads to B Smith. He chips ahead but the bounce favours the Crusaders. There are numbers there and the Crusaders are bundled into touch. Highlanders line-out about 8 metres from the Crusaders' try line
  • 41
KICK-OFF! Sopoaga gets the second half underway with a deep kick into the Crusaders' 22. Ellis collects and returns the favour. He finds touch just inside the Highlanders' half

Half Time

  • 40
The Crusaders secures it and the rolling maul gets going. It makes a few metres before the next phase is set up. The forwards are doing the hard yards and have edged their way to the 5 metre line. A long pass is nearly intercepted by the Highlanders but is knocked on! That's HALF-TIME! Do not go anywhere! This match is living up to all expectations! We will be in for another massive 40 minutes!
  • 39
The Crusaders remain confident in running the ball but the Highlanders are up for it defensively! Some huge tackles being put in! PENALTY! Unfortunately the Highlanders go off their feet at the breakdown and Mo'unga opts to pop the ball into touch on the Highlanders' 22
  • 38
Sopoaga finally finds the radar and slots the conversion!
  • 37
A simple backline move by the Highlanders sees Faddes break through another gap before giving it to Osborne. He is stopped 5 metres short but some more brilliant handling sees the ball find Naholo on the other side of the field and he has an easy canter for his second of the match!
  • 36
The Crusaders secures the ball and Mo'unga is able to clear the ball into touch just outside his 22
  • 35
The ball is thrown to the other side of the field but the Crusaders are able to drift and scramble to bundle Naholo into touch
  • 34
The Highlanders secures the ball and fling it wide. They are stopped on the halfway line but the handling is simply sublime as the backline begins to find their groove
  • 33
It's a bit loose from the restart but the Highlanders has the ball and are running it from inside their 22. Naholo slips through a few tackles to get his side out of his 22. PENALTY! Franks is caught offside and the Highlanders have a chance to clear it up field and relieve the pressure
  • 31
Sopoaga has another attempt from the same spot as his previous miss. He slips on impact and pulls the kick once again
  • 30
For the first time in the match, the Crusaders have kicked the ball after collecting the restart! Highlanders will have the line-out throw close to the Crusaders' 22. The ball is secured and sent to the right. Matt Faddes gets the ball and sets off on a blistering run! He steps inside and sprints close to 40 metres to grab the score! TRY TIME!!!
  • 29
Mo'unga has got the radar locked as he slots his fourth penalty to extend the lead to four points
  • 28
PENALTY! Hohneck collapses the scrum and Mo'unga will have another pop at goal from about 37 metres on the angle
  • 26
The Crusaders secures it and remain in a running mood. A poor cross field kick flies into touch and the Highlanders take it quickly. The Crusaders scrambles on defence and forces a maul. The ball fails to emerge and the Crusaders escape with the scrum feed close to the Highlanders' 22
  • 25
The restart starts a kicking battle but the Crusaders have opted to run it eventually. They reach the Highlanders' 10 metre line but the Highlanders knock the ball on while looking for an interception. Scrum feed to the Crusaders on the Highlanders' 10 metre line
  • 23
Sopoaga lines it up from the touchline and he strikes it beautifully but it drifts across the face of the uprights and misses. Highlanders remain behind on the scoreboard
  • 22
The ball is sent wide to the left and the Highlanders are just 5 metres out. The ball is handed to Sopoaga who places a brilliant cross kick to the right corner. It's perfectly weighted and Naholo is over in the corner! TRY TIME!!!!
  • 21
Another deep restart and once again the Crusaders are in a running mood. PENALTY! The Highlanders win back possession inside the Crusaders' 22 and A Smith takes it quickly! The Crusaders are now in defenc mode as the Highlanders takes the ball through the phases
  • 20
Mo'unga maintains his 100 percent kicking record to stretch the Crusaders' lead to six points
  • 19
Mo'unga will once again have a shot at goal from relatively close to the right touchline - his trickiest kick of the match
  • 18
The Crusaders secure the ball and are full of running as they fling the ball to the left touchline. Macilai-Tori breaks a tackle and gets them to the 5 metre line. The ball is recycled and sent to the other side of the side. The forwards are taking over and Luke Romano gets over the line. However, the try is disallowed for a double movement! PENALTY! Play is brought back for an earlier high tackle and the Crusaders retain possession
  • 17
Solid scrum by the Highlanders allows Sopoaga to put a clearance kick in! He finds touch just outside his 22
  • 16
Another solid Crusaders scrum and they are once again on the front foot. Highlanders are scrambling back and Owen Franks breaks through into the Highlanders' 22! Dagg gets the ball and places a neat grubber through. Read goes charging after it, dives to get the ball grounded but A Smith is there to apply the pressure. Read knocks it on! Scrum to the Highlanders on their 5 metre line
  • 14
Sopoaga puts the restart straight into touch and the Crusaders will have the scrum feed on the half-way line
  • 13
Another easy penalty kick at goal is slotted by Mo'unga and the Crusaders have a slender lead and brings up 100 individual points for the season
  • 12
It has taken some time for a decent scrum to be formed and it's solid by the Crusaders. They fling it wide but it's very lateral. Crockett gets the ball and bursts through to get the Crusaders into the Highlanders' 22. PENALTY! Highlanders are once again offside and Mo'unga will have a shot at goal once again
  • 10
A deep restart sees the Crusaders run the ball from inside their 22 and they have managed to take it onto the Highlanders' 10 metre line. The ball fails to emerge from a ruck and they will maintain possession through a scrum feed on the Highlanders' 10 metre line
  • 9
He makes no mistake and levels matters with a simple kick
  • 8
Mo'unga opts to have a pop at goal from right in front.
  • 7
A poor grubber by Osborne is collected by the Crusaders and they are now on the attack inside the Hoghlanders' 22. Crusaders taking it through the phases now. PENALTY! The Highlanders were caught offside and the HANDBAGS have been brought out once again!
  • 6
Naholo looks to place a high kick but it is collected by Dagg who returns the favour. A bit of aerial ping pong comes to an end with the Crusaders running it up field. STOLEN. Highlanders win back possession and are on the attack down the left touchline
  • 5
Sopoaga puts the penalty into touch just inside the Crusaders' half and they claim the throw in
  • 4
It's a high, hanging restart. PENALTY! Romano joins the maul illegally. Here comes the handbags!
  • 3
Sopoaga gathers himself and slots the first kick of the night to hand the home side the lead
  • 2
McNicholl levels Ben Smith with a late tackle just inside the Highlanders' 22! PENALTY! Sopoaga will line up a kick at goal where the ball landed, which is about 30 metres from the Crusaders' try line
  • 1
Dagg fields an Aaron Smith box kick on the halfway line and the Crusaders are happy to take the ball through the phases before a kicking battle ensues
  • 0
KICK-OFF! And away we go! Richie Mo'unga gets the game underway!
  • -2
The crowd explodes into action as the teams take to the field!
  • -5
A packed Dunedin stadium awaits the players
  • -10
The Crusaders have won seven of their last nine away to the Highlanders, including each of the last three.
  • -20
The Crusaders have won six of the last seven meetings between the sides. However, the Highlanders won the most recent meeting between the two in Round Nine last season.
  • -30
Welcome to the first match of Round 12 and what a cracker it is! The high flying Highlanders are at home to the consistent Crusaders! Regardless of who your money is on, this is going to be an epic New Zealand derby!
Mc highlanders logo 80x50
Highlanders
Mc crusaders logo 80x50
Crusaders
START LINE UP
  • 1 Josh Hohneck
  • 2 Ash Dixon
  • 3 Siua Halanukonuka
  • 4 Alex Ainley
  • 5 Joseph Wheeler
  • 6 Elliot Dixon
  • 7 Dan Pryor
  • 8 Luke Whitelock
  • 9 Aaron Smith
  • 10 Lima Sopoaga
  • 11 Patrick Osborne
  • 12 Malakai Fekitoa
  • 13 Matt Faddes
  • 14 Waisake Naholo
  • 15 Ben Smith
RESERVES
  • 16 Greg Pleasents
  • 17 Craig Millar
  • 18 Ross Geldenhuys
  • 19 Thomas Franklin
  • 20 Liam Squire
  • 21 Fumiaki Tanaka
  • 22 Marty Banks
  • 23 Teihorangi Walden
START LINE UP
  • 1 Wyatt Crockett
  • 2 Codie Taylor
  • 3 Owen Franks
  • 4 Luke Romano
  • 5 Sam Whitelock
  • 6 Jordan Taufua
  • 7 Matt Todd
  • 8 Kieran Read
  • 9 Andrew Ellis
  • 10 Richie Mo’unga
  • 11 Jone Macilai-Tori
  • 12 David Kaetau Havili
  • 13 Kieron Fonotia
  • 14 Johnny McNicholl
  • 15 Israel Dagg
RESERVES
  • 16 Ged Robinson
  • 17 Joe Moody
  • 18 Michael Alaalatoa
  • 19 Scott Barrett
  • 20 Tim Boys
  • 21 Mitchell Drummond
  • 22 Ryan Crotty
  • 23 Marty McKenzie
Mc article jamie joseph highlanders scrum 800

S18 PREVIEW: ROUND 12, PART ONE

Wed, 11 May 2016 22:27

IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Jan de Koning looks at the Friday matches in Part One of Super Rugby's Round 12.

There is no denying it is one of the most important rounds of the season.

With just three weeks to go to the June break and a log-jam of teams queuing  up behind the pace-setting Crusaders, victories are becoming more vital with each passing round.

None more so than when the defending champion Highlanders, just five points behind the table-topping Crusaders, host the tournament's leading team.

This South Island derby, between the Highlanders and Crusaders, always have some additional spice.

Their respective positions on the standings mean Friday's encounter will have the hype and intensity of a Test match.

And the other Friday match, across the Tasman Sea in Australia, has the same storyline - the Rebels, two points behind, hosting the Aussie conference leaders, the Brumbies.

Strap yourself in, it is going to be a wild ride.

We look at the Friday, May 13, matches below!

The Highlanders showed last week - in beating the Chiefs in Hamilton - that they are not a spent force.

They may have gone through a bit of a slump, but they still have all the qualities that made them champions in 2015.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder admitted that this could be one of the toughest games of the season.

"There is nothing like a classic Southern Derby to bring out the best in both the Crusaders and the Highlanders," Blackadder said in an interview on stuff.co.nz.

"It is always a great game with an amazing atmosphere and with both teams playing well and hungry for the win there is sure to be plenty of passion on the field on Friday."

The Crusaders have won eight in a row and sit top of the table, but the Highlanders are in a confident frame of mind after last week's win.

Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod in an interview in the Otago Daily Times spoke of the "polished" look the Crusaders have, adding that defence will be key.

"They have got a roll-on," McLeod said, adding: "Their set piece is really humming and they are able to play the game at speed, stretch the opposition, and run teams around.

"They play an offloading game that gives everyone an opportunity.

"We just have to play our game, just getting to the level we want to.

"We are just after a good performance each week.

"I know it is cliche but that is what we are after. We just want to put on a good performance.''

Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson felt the key will be who produces the best "team effort", although individuals could produce the magical moments that can spark either side.

"It is going to be a tough match against the Highlanders, because in their win over the Chiefs in Hamilton [last week] they looked to be back to their abrasive best,"Matson told superrugby.co.nz.

"I think so many [elements] of what the Highlanders bring to the game absolutely pushes us.

"So for us it is going to be a massive challenge to contain parts of the game that are really hard to contain. And part of that will be the match-ups, the one on ones created on the edge," he said.

Recent results:
2015: Highlanders won 25-20, Christchurch
2015: Crusaders won 26-20, Dunedin
2014: Crusaders won 34-8, Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 32-30, Dunedin
2013: Crusaders won 40-12, Dunedin
2013: Crusaders won 24-8, Christchurch

Prediction: The Crusaders have won six of the last seven meetings between the sides. However, the Highlanders won the most recent meeting between the two in Round Nine last season. The Crusaders have won seven of their last nine away to the Highlanders, including each of the last three. Only the Kings have had less possession than the Highlanders this season (13 minutes, 40 seconds) with the Dunedin side putting boot to ball more often than anyone else (27.8 times per game). The Crusaders have a first half points differential of +96 so far this season, the best of any side and more than twice as good as the Highlanders (+45). Jone Macilai-Tori was the leading metre maker in Round 11, notching up 121 metres over the gainline for the Crusaders. Tough to call, especially given the importance of the match. It is not a bad bet to go with the home team - the Highlanders by five points or less.

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Teihorangi Walden.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Marty McKenzie.

Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Kane McBride
TMO: Aaron Paterson

The Rebels may have dropped off the top of the standings, but they are still well and truly in the play-off race.

It is a position that will give them additional motivation when they play host in a domestic derby that has produced a few upsets.

The Brumbies regained the lead in the Aussie conference with their win over the Bulls last week, but just two points separating the top three Australian sides.

"We'll be calling on all our experience on Friday against the Brumbies," Rebels coach Tony McGahan said.

"It's exciting for the franchise to still be in the conversation [play-off race] at this point of the season, but we're under no illusion about the importance of this game so we need to back ourselves and our abilities for this opportunity."

Coming off the bye, the Rebels will look to draw on their recent success against their fellow countrymen, having won each of their last three matches against Australian teams.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham felt, despite last week's win, his team still made far too many costly errors.

Speaking to the Canberra Times, Larkham said they must "push the boundaries in attack" to ensure they stay ahead of the chasing pack in the Aussie conference.

Tevita Kuridrani may well be the player to spark that "expansive" game Larkham is searching for.

"I think Tevita has started the season really well, but for a number of reasons the play just hasn't gone his way," Larkham said.

"He's made a couple of mistakes, but he's been very consistent this year and over the last couple of rounds we've seen him start to play his best football.

"He's starting to get his hands on the ball a little bit more and in the new attacking shape we've been playing we've had an adjustment in trying to find touches for Tevita.

"We're finding better ways to get him into the game. Defensively he's doing a superb job and connecting really well with the other backs around him."

Recent results:
2015: Rebels won 13-8, Canberra
2015: Brumbies won 20-15, Melbourne
2014: Brumbies won 37-10, Canberra
2014: Rebels won 32-24, Melbourne
2013: Brumbies won 39-17, Canberra
2013: Brumbies won 30-13, Melbourne

Prediction: The Rebels won the last meeting between these two sides and are aiming for back-to-back wins against the Brumbies for the first time in Super Rugby. However, the Brumbies have won seven of the 10 meetings between the two in Super Rugby, including three of the five clashes between the sides in Melbourne. The Brumbies have won their last three away to Australian sides, their best run away to opposition in their conference since winning four in a row across the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Joseph Tomane has made five more clean breaks than any other player this season (23), averaging 2.9 per game so far. The  Rebels' goal  kicking  success  rate  sits  at  just  64%  so  far,  the lowest  of any side in the competition this season. The Brumbies will edge a real Aussie arm-wrestle - by eight points.

Teams:

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Tom English, 23 Kotaro Matsushima.

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (co-captain), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (co-captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Lausii Taliauli.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant referees: Will Houston, Michale Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith

Compiled by Jan de Koning
@King365ed
@rugby365com

* Statistical information provided by Opta Sports


Mc article luke whitelock hand off 800

Highlanders make a BIG statement

Fri, 13 May 2016 09:37

REPORT: The defending Super Rugby champion Highlanders made a BIG statement in Dunedin on Friday, securing a 34-26 bonus-point win over the table-topping Crusaders.

With the Highlanders coming into form late in the season there is now a New Zealand log-jam at the head of the table with the Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders separated only by points differential.

The Crusaders barely hung on to first place in the global standings - with the Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders on 37 points in the hotly contested New Zealand conference.

It is not so much the five tries to two margin, but more the manner in which they played and the intensity of their own game.

The win - in what was, without doubt, the best game of the season so far - completed a remarkable double for the Highlanders, who last week beat the Chiefs who had been top of the table for most of the season.

The Crusaders on Friday started like a house on fire, completely dominating all aspects of the game in the first quarter - twice going over the line, only to be denied by the television match official.

However, not only did the Highlanders work their way back into the game, but they did so in emphatic fashion - scoring three first-half tries through some sublime handling and creative skills.

And then, after the break, they took a firm choke-hold on the game and squeezed the life out of the Crusaders - only a late Israel Dagg try giving the Crusaders' score some respectability.

Unheralded Matt Faddes upstaged his illustrious teammate Waisake Naholo.

Faddes and All Blacks wing Naholo both scored two tries in the relentless running spectacle and it was outside centre Faddes, a former Sevens star and one of the fastest players in New Zealand, who set the pace.

His ability to slice through the Crusaders' midfield produced his first try and set up Naholo's second, and Faddes then broke the game open when he scored again with a 50-metre solo effort soon after half-time.

The Highlanders spent most of the first quarter scrambling in defence as the Crusaders effectively used the inside pass to have tight forwards Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano lead a procession through the inside channels.

But they were denied two tries by the television match official when Kieran Read and Romano attacked the line, and Highlanders captain Ben Smith sensed the momentum switch once they had weathered that opening storm.

"They were probably a bit unlucky not to score a couple of tries, but I'm really proud of the way we reacted to that and managed to get back into the game," Smith said.

"We knew we had to keep attacking. They're a quality team and we had to get points on the board and on the back end of that we had to do a lot of defending and I think if paid off quite nicely."

The Crusaders had to rely on penalties to take a 9-3 lead before the Highlanders, surviving on scraps of possession, burst into life with three tries in the second quarter.

A well-weighted Lima Sopoaga cross kick put Naholo over in the corner for the first try and they then twice used the wrap-around move from a line-out for Faddes to score his first and send Naholo in for his second.

Faddes extended the Highlanders' lead to 27-12 early in the second half when he stepped inside Matt Todd on the halfway line and raced 50 metres unopposed to touchdown.

The frenetic final 30 minutes were filled with outrageous off-loads, power running and brutal tackles.

The Crusaders eventually found their way over the line with a try to Jordan Taufua only for the Highlanders to reply with a try to Liam Squire before Israel Dagg finished off the scoring with the Crusaders second try on full-time.

Man of the match: Israel Dagg was the spark in everything that was good about the Crusaders, Kieran read worked his socks off, Richie Mo'unga had some moments of real magic, while Jordan Taufua was probably the Crusaders' most productive player. You can look at almost every player in the Highlanders team, including those coming off the bench. The Smiths, Ben and Aaron, produced their usual world class performances, Waisake Naholo and Matt Faddes produces crucial try-scoring plays - particularly Faddes, who was pretty close to getting the award. Lima Sopoaga was not perfect, but still influential. Elliot Dixon led the way in a mammoth defensive effort by the entire pack. However, our award goes to Highlanders No.8 Luke Whitelock, who showed his former Crusaders teammates what value he can provide - both in terms of defence and support play.

The scorers:

For the Highlanders:
Tries:
Naholo 2, Faddes 2, Squire
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Pen: Sopoaga

For the Crusaders:
Tries:
Taufua, Dagg
Cons: Mo'unga
Pens: Mo'unga 4

Yellow card: Joe Wheeler (Highlanders, 55 - foul play, late shoulder charge)

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Teihorangi Walden.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Marty McKenzie.

Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Kane McBride
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Waisake Naholo (22min), Matt Faddes (30min), Waisake Naholo (37min), Matt Faddes (52min), and Liam Squire (71min)
TRIES
Jordan Taufua (60min) and Israel Dagg (81min)
Lima Sopoaga (38min), Lima Sopoaga (53min), and Lima Sopoaga (72min)
CONVERSIONS
Richie Mo’unga (61min) and Richie Mo’unga (82min)
Lima Sopoaga (3min)
PENALTIES
Richie Mo’unga (9min), Richie Mo’unga (13min), Richie Mo’unga (20min), and Richie Mo’unga (29min)
 
PENALTY TRIES
 
DROP GOALS
Joseph Wheeler (55min)
 
 
VENUE Dunedin
REFEREE Chris Pollock (New Zealand)