For the first time in the history of Super Rugby Aotearoa, a match has been decided by golden point. In a crucial contest in the context of both teams’ seasons, the Highlanders lost a thriller against the Chiefs 26-23 in extra time.

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Both teams scored one try each in the first-half, with the Highlanders try being arguably the pick of the two. Flanker James Lentjes scored off a well worked set-piece play. But as the match went on, the Chiefs seemed to be in control.

But the Highlanders didn’t give up. After trailing by 10-points late, replacement Josh Ioane scored all the points needed to draw the two teams level, and eventually send the sides into extra time. Ioane then missed a drop goal in the 84th minute which would’ve won the match for his side.

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The Chiefs training bust up that showed Liam Messam how good Brodie Retallick would be

In the end though, a long-range Damian McKenzie penalty decided the match.

Here’s how the Highlanders rated.

1. Ethan de Groot – 6.5/10

The Highlanders were solid at the scrum against the Chiefs, and Ethan de Groot’s rating is somewhat a reflection of that. While the prop had three runs and made five tackles, he made his mark at the set-piece in my opinion. His opposite, Angus Ta’avao, was penalised in the 18th minute for going down at the scrum – with the Highlanders loosehead applying great pressure.

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 2. Ash Dixon – 7.5

As he often is, Dixon was one of the standouts for the Highlanders this week. Not only did he hit all but one target when throwing into the lineout, he also impressed with his efforts around the park. The co-captain had made a team-high nine tackles by the time he was subbed off after 58 minutes, and also had four runs.

 3. Josh Hohneck – 6.5

In his first start for the Highlanders this season, Hohneck was reliable both at the set-piece and in defence. When he was subbed off in the second-half, the tighthead prop had made six tackles, which was equal third for the hosts at the time. Also, as mentioned in de Groot’s rating, the Highlanders also performed well at the scrum.

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4. Bryn Evans – 7

As well as being one of the primary options at the lineout for the Highlanders, Evans was generally impressive around the field. The lock passed a short ball to Shannon Frizell, which led to Aaron Smith’s try early in the second half. His work rate around the field also deserves some praise.

 5. Pari Pari Parkinson – 6.5

Parkinson returned from a length injury spell a couple of weeks ago, and has impressed since. But unfortunately for the 24-year-old, it seems like he’s hurt again. The second-rower went down injured in the 24th minute, but stayed on the park. Parkinson won a crucial penalty for his side in the 39th minute, getting over the ball at the breakdown with the Chiefs five metres out from the try-line. But following this, he looked worse for wear and was replaced soon after.

 6. Shannon Frizell – 8

In my opinion, Frizell was the best player for the Highlanders against the Chiefs, in fact, it’s not even a debate. As well as proving to be a reliable option at the lineout, he got busy around the park. The blindside flanker had a team-high 12 runs (for 27 metres), and he made 10 tackles which was the equal most for the game alongside Chiefs flanker Mitch Brown. Frizell also had a try assist early in the second-half, sending Aaron Smith over for a score.

 7. James Lentjes – 7.5

Lentjes was one of the standouts for the Highlanders against the Chiefs. Most notably, the flanker crossed for his sides first points of the match 10 minutes into the contest, scoring off a sublime set-piece play. Overall, he ran for 28 metres, and made an impressive eight tackles – which was the second most tackles made of any Highlanders player when he was subbed off.

 8. Kazuki Himeno – 7.5

Himeno was one of the hardest working Highlanders players on Saturday night. He had the second-most runs of any player on the night with nine (for 32 metres), and the Number Eight also made five tackles.

 9. Aaron Smith – 7.5

In game number 156, the scrumhalf was once again a top performer. Not only was his passing quick and reliable – but seriously, when is it not – but he also crossed for a try early in the second-half. Smith sent the ball wide right, then ran a line in anticipation of a potential line-break. Frizell broke through and offloaded the ball to Smith, who helped bring the two teams level at that stage.

 10. Mitch Hunt – 7

It was a tough night for goal kickers at Forsyth Barr Stadium, so unfortunately for Mitch Hunt, my rating of him somewhat reflects that. He did, however, knock over one conversation and one penalty. Other than that, he kicked well enough out of hand and helped lead the Highlanders in attack. Hunt had six runs for 53 metres, 11 passes, and made five tackles.

 11. Jona Nareki – 6

Unfortunately, Nareki didn’t get the chance to replicate his heroics from the last time these two teams met, where he scored a hat-trick. Instead, he had three runs for no metres, but passed the ball six times. Nareki did kick well out of hand though.

12. Scott Gregory – 7

Lining up at inside centre this week, Gregory struggled to make an impact in the first-half. But in the second-half, he was a lot better. Not only did he have a lineout reception in the 42nd minute off an intentional overthrow – which led to Aaron Smith’s try, but he also got busy in attack and defence. He finished with four runs for 23 metres, and made six tackles.

 13. Patelesio Tomkinson – 6.5

While the ball didn’t seem to come Tomkinson’s way too much (three runs for six metres), he made some effective tackles which deserves some credit. He made the most tackles of any back on the night, with seven, by the time he was subbed off.

 14. Ngatungane Punivai – 6.5

The ball just didn’t seem to come the wingers way in the first 25-minutes. His first notable involvement appeared to be a lineout reception in the 26th minute, with Ash Dixon aiming for him beyond the lineout. While he had another reception in the 50th minute, that’s not his core job. As the match went on, he got more chances, eventually finishing with six runs for 11 metres.

 15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 6.5

While he didn’t get many opportunities to impress on Saturday night in my opinion, I was impressed with the courage Garden-Bachop showed under the high ball. He also passed and kicked well enough, in what was another solid showing from the rookie sensation.

Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman – 6

17. Ayden Johnstone – 6.5

In the 49th minute, the replacement prop won a major penalty with the Chiefs only a few metres out from the line.

18. Siate Tokolahi – 7

Made seven tackles off the bench, which was better than 11 Highlanders starters.

19. Josh Dickson – 6.5

20. Billy Harmon – 6

21. Kayne Hammington – N/A

22. Josh Ioane – 7

With the Highlanders trailing by 10, Ioane came off the bench and scored a crucial try in the 70th minute. A penalty from Ioane in the 77th minute eventually saw the teams locked at 23-all, and sent the match into golden point. Had the chance to win the match in extra time though, but missed the attempt in the 84th.

23. Hugh Renton – 6

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