Match Centre: Super Rugby Pacific: Waratahs 21-23 Highlanders

Rhys Patchell scored the opening try for Highlanders
Rhys Patchell scored the opening try for Highlanders

Waratahs 21-23 Highlanders, Forsyth Barr Stadium

Highlanders have returned back to winning ways as they edged out Waratahs 23-21 in the third round of the Super Rugby Pacific at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday.

Highlanders now are at fifth position in the table with nine points while Waratahs after suffering their second defeat in three games are at seventh place.

An early infringement from Triston Reilly allowed Sam Gilbert to open Highlanders' account with a penalty goal before Folau Fakatava and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens combined to send Rhys Patchell over the line for the opening try. Gilbert kicked the conversion as the scoreline became 0-10.

Waratahs had a chance to open their account as Highlanders were penalised for not rolling away but the kick from Tane Edmed drifted wide. Nevertheless, Edmed made amends with another three pointer in the 14th minute bringing the gap down to seven points.

The home side soon rose to lead as Edmed slotted a three pointer in the 24th minute following which good work from Mark Nawaqanitawase and Jake Gordon allowed Izaia Perese to dive over for the 28th minute and Edmed improved to make it a three point game.

As the half-time was approaching Gilbert and Edmed traded tries as the teams completed the opening half with a 16-13 scoreline.

After both the teams were looking for an early advantage in the second half, the breakthrough eventually came in the 60th minute when Waratahs were penalised for not rolling away and Gilbert slotted a three-pointer to make it 16-16.

With 15 minutes left in the game, Faleafaga sent a high pass for Tanielu Tele'a to touchdown and the conversion from Gilbert meant the visitors extended the lead to seven points. The decisive moment came in the 68th minute when Triston Reilly breached the defence of the New Zealand side allowing Max Jorgensen to score but Edmed missed the conversion.

Things went from bad to worse for Waratahs as Edmed missed another penalty chance in the 72nd minute allowing Highlanders to get away with a thrilling two point victory.

Team line up:

Highlanders: Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Tanielu Tela’a, Sam Gilbert, Jona Nareki, Rhys Patchell, Folau Fakatava, Hugh Renton, Nikora Broughton, Tom Sanders, Max Hicks, Fabian Holland, Jermaine Ainsley, Henry Bell, Ethan de Groot (c).

Reserves: Ricky Jackson, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon, James Arscott, Ajay Faleafaga, Jonah Lowe.

Waratahs: Max Jorgenson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Joey Walton, Triston Reilly, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Langi Gleeson, Charlie Gamble, Ned Hanigan, Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Mahe Vailanu, Angus Bell.

Reserves: Julian Heaven, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Tom Ross, Miles Amatosero, Fergus Lee-Warner, Teddy Wilson, Harry Wilson, Mosese Tuipulotu.