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Highlanders outlast Crusaders to end historic streak in Dunedin

By Ned Lester
Tanielu Tele'a of the Highlanders celebrates after scoring a try. Highlanders outlast Crusaders to end historic streak

The second New Zealand derby of the day was played down in Dunedin between two teams fighting for their playoff dreams.


The Highlanders had lost 19 straight games against New Zealand opposition heading into the contest, but wouldn’t make it 20 as they claimed a famous victory under the roof in Dunedin.

A penalty to the Highlanders opened the scoring, with Cam Millar claiming the three points after just three minutes.

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The first try of the game came by way of a falcon off the head of Jamie Hannah, with Tanielu Tele’a picking up the scraps and running it in. Millar was back at the tee just three minutes after his first effort and added the extras.

A yellow card was handed to Folau Fakatava for a professional foul just metres from the Crusaders line, and it took just one minute for Sevu Reece to get on the scoresheet to capitalise on the man advantage. Chay Fihaki converted.

Cam Millar claimed another three points as soon as the Highlanders got within range, and the seesaw continued with Dallas McLeod scoring off a break down the middle of the park, with the try assist coming from Noah Hotham.

It took just two minutes for Millar to get back on the scoresheet, reclaiming the lead with a further three points.


Millar then found the way to the chalk himself after Fakatava returned to the field and made his impact felt instantly. The young first five-eighth converted his own try.

A line break from Nikora Broughton got the Highlanders back in attacking field position, and after being held up over the line, the play was called back as the Highlanders were playing with advantage and Millar added three more to his impressive points tally.


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The hosts found space down the wing and made their way into the Crusaders’ 22 where they put their big bodies to work, putting plenty of pressure on the Crusaders’ defence who resisted but not legally, resulting in a yellow card for Jamie Hannah.

Up a man, the Highlanders went to the corner and set up for a driving maul, but the Crusaders were up for the challenge and defused the threat.


The Crusaders struggled to exit and were forced into more desperate defence, only to force another mistake, win the scrum penalty and head into the halftime break down 26-14.


There were still five and a half minutes remaining on Hannah’s yellow card when the second half kicked off, but a poor exit and a knock-on from the Highlanders meant the Crusaders were able to comfortably see out that period.

Enjoying quality field position, the Crusaders unleashed their backline and Chay Fihaki exploited a half gap to draw an extra defender before finding Sevu Reece who ran it in the corner untouched for his second try.

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It wasn’t long before the Crusaders were back into the Highlanders’ 22, and the pressure resulted in another penalty from right in front, an easy three points for Fihaki.

The battle of All Black front rowers was won in the first instance by Ethan de Groot, but Fletcher Newell had the upper hand from there on out.

Timoci Tavatavanawai again proved to be one of the elite turnover machines in Super Rugby Pacific, winning his second breakdown penalty of the contest with his team’s backs against the wall.

Defence dominated much of the second half, with both teams managing 10-plus phase attacking stands without getting any pay.

Finally, in the final 10 minutes, a penalty went the Highlanders’ way and Millar stepped up to the tee once more, extending the lead to seven.

Millar made it 28 points on the night minutes later and all but secured the win for his team with the lead at 10.

A frantic final effort from the Crusaders saw Millar yellow carded and the Crusaders scored a bizarre consolation try – and claimed a bonus point – through Macca Springer. Final score: 32-29.


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