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Late try robs Reds of just their second win in 27 years in Dunedin

By AAP
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

A last-minute try has robbed the Queensland Reds of just their second win in 27 years in Dunedin and left the injury-hit side in grave danger of missing the Super Rugby Pacific finals.

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The Highlanders kept their own season alive with a 35-30 win at a pulsing Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday, Folau Fakatava scoring in the right corner with 30 seconds to play.

The Reds led 14-0 early then 27-14 early in the second half, Tom Lynagh kicking a clutch 45m penalty from out wide to put the Reds ahead by three with four minutes to play. But the Highlanders came again to leave the Reds shattered.

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Victory would have sewn up a finals berth but the result leaves the Reds clinging on to eighth and all but needing a win in Fiji against the Drua to remain there and play finals.

The Reds hadn’t won in Dunedin since 2013 (their only win since 1996) but looked on song early when Liam Wright powered over in the seventh minute.

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But the co-captain hurt his arm and saw no further part, with fellow leader Tate McDermott and back-rower Conner Vest also first-half casualties. A try-of-the-season contender followed, Harry Wilson running off his own line to bust through tacklers, dummy then pass to James O’Connor.

O’Connor shunted off a tackle and somehow stayed infield, the ball going through four more sets of hands before Jake Upfield scored.

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The Highlanders got it back to 14-14, Suliasi Vunivalu leaping through the line and waltzing over on the half-time siren to give the Reds the lead.

Tom Lynagh’s (three-from-three penalties) boot kept the visitors ahead in the second half as their injuries took a toll on their energy stocks, even with Wilson’s constant charges bending the Highlanders’ line.

Connor Garden-Bachop’s try put the hosts in front for the first time, two potential knock-ons and a forward pass in the build-up not reviewed. Another scrum penalty win gave Lynagh a platform to boot the Reds back in front and he obliged.

But a simple knock on by Hunter Paisami hurt the visitors, the fit-again centre fumbling a loose ball that had spilled out when the Highlanders were pressing for a try.

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Fakatava, on for Aaron Smith in the Japan-bound half-back’s final home game, made the most of it to dart over and shatter the Reds’ hopes of a second straight win in New Zealand.

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1 Comment
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Willie 388 days ago

Not a Reds supporter but was appalled the ref found an Otago penalty "in front" AFTER 14 phases of almost identical play.
The ball was available to the halfback at roughly the same speed as the previous 14 times.
The NRL has the courage to demote officials who are incompetent.

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