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Highlanders prevail as Gatland sinks his dad's Chiefs

SUPER RUGBY REPORT: An impressive drop goal by Bryn Gatland made sure the Highlanders secure a dramatic 28-27 win over the Chiefs on Saturday.


Super Rugby is certainly back.

It was a nailbiting encounter between the two sides who were vying for the W in the first-ever Super Rugby Aotearoa.

*As if happened: Highlanders v Chiefs

The first half delivered some wonderful running rugby as both teams took an attacking approach. Unfortablay the same can not be said for the second half.

Whether it was the players’ inability to adapt to stricter new breakdown and offside interpretations, the number of penalties certainly overshadowed the second stanza.

Highlanders took a 22-16 lead at the break courtesy of tries from Ash Dickson, Patelesio Tomkinson and Marino Mikaele Tu’u and two conversions and a penalty from Mitchell Hunt. While a try by Sean Wainui and three penalties along with the conversion by Damian McKenzie kept the Chiefs in the match.

The Highlanders draw first blood with a successful penalty kick by Hunt.

Minutes later Chiefs had a chance to level matters however they opted to go for a line-out which was not very fruitful. The Chiefs continued to attack and eventually were rewarded with another penalty – this time  McKenzie stepped up and sealed the three points, 3-all after eight minutes of play.


Chiefs took the lead with another penalty, however, the lead was short-lived as the Highlanders hit back with the try of the historic Super Rugby Aotorera tournament. From the back of driving maul, captain Dixon powered over the line for the five-pointer, 8-6.

Just after the quarter mark, Tomkinson scored the second try of the match as Highlanders extended their lead, 15-6.

Chiefs started to find their rhythm and the wonderful team try instigated by McKenzie was rounded off by Wainui. McKenzie added the extras to narrowed the deficit to just two points.

Warren Gatland’s side finally took the lead with Highlanders down to 14-man as Vilimoni Korio was yellow carded. McKenzie stepped up and added a penalty for the one-point lead.


Despite being a man down, Highlanders rallied and thanks to a superb Aaron Smith flat pass Sio Tomkinson barged his way over for the try. Hunt added the extra for the 22-16 lead at the break.

The second half saw Hunt and McKenzie exchanged penalties before, All Black Anton Lienert-Brown went over in the corner for the  Chiefs’ 25-24 lead.

With two minutes on clock McKenzie landed a drop goal and it certainly looked like Chiefs might have stolen the match.

However, Bryn Gatland, the late replacement, had other ideas. Gatland hit back with a drop goal and snatched the victory.

Man of the match: It was certainly evident that the players have been out of action since March, Both teams struggled to gain momentum especially in the second half, while the new breakdown laws certainly did not help. For the Chiefs, Damian McKenzie and Brad Webber were the standout performers. While the Highlanders forwards produced a workmanlike performance – Ash Dixon, Shannon Frizell top the list. In the backline Patelesio Tomkinson and Aaron Smith were some of their most productive backs. Our award goes to Highlanders No.8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u – who not only scored a try, but made 12 carries and 56 metres and won two lineouts.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Dixon, Tomkinson, Mikaele Tu’u
Cons: Hunt 2
Pens: Hunt 2
Drop-Goal: Gatland

For CHiefs:
Tries: Wainui, Lienert-Brown
Con: McKenzie
Pens: McKenzie 4
Drop-Goal: McKenzie

Yellow cards: Vilimoni Koroi (Highlanders, 31 – Dangerous tackle), Jona Nareki (Highlanders, 60 – Dangerous tackle)


Highlanders: 15 Vilimoni Koroi, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Paripari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Teihorangi Walden, 23 Bryn Gatland.

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Dylan Nel, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Etene Nanai-Seturo.

Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: James Doleman

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