Manu proud of title-winners

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu
Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu was full of pride after his side defied the odds to claim their first-ever Super Rugby title on Saturday.

Elliot Dixon and Waisake Naholo scored a try apiece as Lima Sopoaga added two penalties and Marty Banks made sure of the win with a late drop goal as the Highlanders clinched a 21-14 victory over the Hurricanes at the Westpac Stadium.

Prior to this match, home teams had won 15 of the 19 Super Rugby finals, but the Otago-based outfit dominated from the start in Wellington as home advantage proved of little help to the Hurricanes.

The Edinburgh-bound Manu told Sky Sports 1: "I'm so proud of the boys and we always believed that we could win if we performed well on the day. I'm just really proud of the boys and what a way to end the Super Rugby.

"We just play as a team. We're a champion team and to come away with a result..."

He finished by thanking the fans for their loyal support throughout the season, adding: "We want to say a big thank you to all our supporters who managed to get to the game.

"You guys have been awesome for us the whole year and we're just glad we could get the win for you guys."

Man of the match Dixon, who was awarded a try on the stroke of half-time after a lengthy review as to whether the ball was grounded, was delighted to contribute to the win.

He said of his try: " I thought I got the boot and the ground at the same time so I don't know. A couple haven't gone my way this year so I thought I was probably going to get no good from the TMO but I was pretty happy when it went over."

The Highlanders knock ed out defending champions the Waratahs in Sydney last week and Dixon was pleased with the hard work they put in ahead of the season with which they have built on.

He said: "I think (head coach) Jamie Joseph said three weeks ago that people don't stumble upon quarter-finals or semi-finals but I think we did our work in the pre-season.

"We knew deep down we're a championship-winning team. We just didn't get the support that we thought we should have earned and I think we showed everyone tonight that we could do it.

"I think that Waratahs game - some people called it boring rugby, but it was just tactics and we knew that was how we had to win. We came here with a never-say-die (attitude)."

While outgoing Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith was obviously disappointed with the result but believes his side will get their maiden title in the near future.

He said: "I don't know what to say. It's finals footy, there are some gutted men to my right but I'm still proud of them.

"I'm proud of what they've done and I'm proud of the last 12 years that I've worn the swirl (Hurricanes badge).

"It didn't work out tonight but we met a Highlanders side that played their best and I just take my hat off to them. They deserved to be victorious and deserve to have a good night.

"Wellington, you've got a good team here stick with us. I won't be playing any more but there'll be plenty of good times ahead and we'll get the trophy for you - I promise."