Match Centre: Chiefs 23-39 Highlanders

Highlanders have registered their first win of the season
Highlanders have registered their first win of the season

Chiefs 23-39 Highlanders, FMG Stadium Waikato

Highlanders scored four second half tries as they came from behind to register a 39-23 win over Chiefs in the second round of Super Rugby Aotearoa at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday.

This is first win for Highlanders in two games as they move to the top of the table with five points while Chiefs are at last after losing their first match.

Damian McKenzie got the Chiefs off the mark with a second minute penalty kick. Josh Ioane missed his first penalty chance but amends in the second in the 10th minute to level the scores.

Referee Paul Williams was kept busy with another infringement from Highlanders provided McKenzie with a penalty close to the posts which he slotted it without mistake in the 15th minute to make the scoreline 6-3.

As the first quarter was about to end, the visitors were reduced to 14-men temporarily when Sio Tomkinson was sin-binned for a cynical penalty at the breakdown and the Chiefs immediately responded back with Luke Jacobson dotting down after making most of the pass from Brad Weber.

Even though a second penalty from Ioane in the 26th minute made the scoreline 13-6, the Chiefs opted for a scrum and eventually McKenzie went over and also converted it making it 20-6. Just as Tomkinson returned from sin-binned, Highlanders lost Ash Dixon to yellow card in the 32nd minute for another cynical foul.

But this time, Highlanders showed better resilience with Jona Nareki scoring their opening try in the 33rd minute but Ioane missed the conversion and a penalty as the teams went into the break with a 20-11 scoreline.

Highlanders were the dominated in the second half as they scored three tries in a span of eight minutes. First it was scrum-half Folau Fakatava, who dotted down in the 50th minute and then three minutes later Nareki brushed away a couple of tackles to set Shannon Frizell over the line. Nareki looked unstoppable as he claimed his second try in the 57th minute and with Ioane kicking all the three conversions the scoreline became 20-32.

McKenzie kept Chiefs in the game with his third penalty kick in the 66th minute but Nareki completed his hat-trick after receiving a pass from Hunt to complete a convincing 16 point win for Highlanders.

Team line-up:

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa'i, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1 Reuben O'Neill.

Reserves: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Mitchell Brown, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson.

Highlanders: 15 Mitch Hunt, 14 Connor Garden-Bachop, 13 Ngatungane Punivai, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jack Regan, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Reserves: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 22 Solomon Alaimalo, 23 Hugh Renton.

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