Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders stage dramatic comeback, Hurricanes' Barrett boots the winner over Blues

Super Rugby - Aotearoa
AAP
by AAP

Centre Sio Tomkinson scored the match-winning try in the 82nd minute as the Highlanders rallied from 24-0 down after 21 minutes to beat the Chiefs 33-31 in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Flyhalf Mitch Hunt's conversion, the final act of Sunday's match, marked the first time the Dunedin-based Highlanders had led.

They were down 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 early in the second half but rallied doggedly to score four second-half tries, including two in the last five minutes, to grab an unlikely victory.

"Once we had the ball and put some phases together we were good," Highlanders captain Ash Dixon said.

"But I think in that first half we were well off the pace and we couldn't contain it."

"We gave away a lot of silly penalties and our discipline was poor. But once we got down the right end of the field and played a bit of ball things happened."

After a thrilling 80 minutes the match came down to the final play.

The Highlanders, trailing 31-26, won a penalty after the full-time siren and kicked to touch to earn a lineout five metres from the Chiefs' goal line.


They won the ball and attempted to drive through the Chiefs lineout defence before scrumhalf Aaron Smith passed on the open side to Tomkinson who cut through to score.

In doing so, the Highlanders prevented the Chiefs from claiming their first win of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season.

They have bow lost their first five matches in the New Zealand competition and their last in the full Super Rugby tournament before it was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chiefs and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland was made aware before the match that the Chiefs only twice before in their history have lost six games in a row and have never lost five in a row at home.

Gatland responded: "I've been in rugby a long time so it's not the first time I've had my back against the wall a little bit."

RESULT

Highlanders 33

Tries: Mikaela-Tu'u, Hunt, Smith, Nareki, Tomkinson

Cons: Hunt 4

Pens:

Chiefs 31

Tries: Boshier, Lienert-Brown, Slater 2

Cons: McKenzie 4

Pens: McKenzie

HURRICANES vs BLUES

Jordie Barrett kicked a sideline conversion of Asafo Aumua's 76th minute try and gave the Hurricanes a 29-27 victory over the Blues in their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash on Saturday.

Barrett's conversion upstaged older brother Beauden, who was making his first appearance for the Blues in Wellington after he moved north this year following nine seasons with the Hurricanes.

It was also the Hurricanes third successive victory in the competition and brought them to 12 points, one behind the second-placed Blues.

The unbeaten Crusaders have 18 points and the bye this week.

The Blues had beaten the Hurricanes twice already this year, once in the full Super Rugby competition before it was halted in March because of the coronavirus outbreak and then again in the first week of the New Zealand-only competition.

Despite being a crowd favourite while at the Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett was left in no doubts as to the fickleness or tribalism of New Zealand rugby fans when he was booed loudly every time he touched the ball.

While the home side had the best of the first half the score was locked at 15-15 at the break, with Beauden Barrett and Dalton Papali'i crossing for the visitors, while Ngani Laumape and Reed Prinsep scored tries for the home side.

Blues flyhalf Otere Black and Jordie Barrett slotted a conversion and penalty each.

Dane Coles then ran a superb support line to give the home side the lead with a 44th minute try but the Blues again capitalised on a strong drive from attacking lineouts to shunt both Akira Ioane and Kurt Eklund over.

Aumua's try, however, drew the Hurricanes level and the younger Barrett then calmly slotted the conversion to give the home side the win.

RESULT

Hurricanes 29

Tries: Laumape, Prinsep, Coles, Aumua

Cons: Barrett 3

Pens: Barrett

Blues 27

Tries: Barrett, Papali'i, Ioane, Eklund

Cons: Black, Barrett 

Pens: Black