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Reds go Upfield to score try of the season contender

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

More than two decades before the sport turned professional, Wales legend Gareth Edwards scored one of the greatest tries of all-time while playing for the Barbarians in 1973.

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Then, 21 years later, France fullback Jean-Luc Sadourny famously scored ‘The Try from the End of the World’ to win a thrilling Test at the death against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

But let the history books show that on May 26th, 2023, Reds replacement Jake Upfield may have scored the modern-day equivalent against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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On a night that will already go down in New Zealand Rugby history with legendary halfback Aaron Smith playing his final home match in Highlanders colours, Queensland shot out of the blocks in red-hot form.

Playing on the sacred turf at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Reds co-captain Liam Wright fought his way over for a try inside the opening 10 minutes – but went off immediately after.

After injuring himself while scoring the try – it looked like a wrist or an arm injury – Wright walked off with the green whistle in his mouth, and was replaced by Jake Upfield.

Upfield was brought on a lot earlier than he may have expected, but certainly seized the opportunity with both hands.

From practically his own try-line, Reds No. 8 Harry Wilson broke through the heart of the Highlanders’ defensive line.

Wilson threw an outrageous dummy as he galloped down the park, and ended up running about 50 metres before getting the ball off to teammate James O’Connor.

O’Connor was met by a monstrous tackle from former England flyhalf Freddie Burns, but somehow managed to stay in touch. The Wallaby got a ball off to halfback Tate McDermott, who created more magic.

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McDermott threw a brilliant flick pass to Josh Flook, and the ball went through another two pair of hands – ending up with Upfield about five metres short of the try-line.

Upfield had only been on the field for two minutes, and ended up getting on the scoresheet with what might just end up being the try of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

It doesn’t get much better.

The try helped the Reds race out to an early 14-nil lead, as they silenced a usually vibrant Dunedin crowd – a crowd hoping to farewell legendary halfback Aaron Smith in style.

But the Highlanders hit back, they had to be the next team to score and they were.

Winger Jona Nareki crossed for their first points in the 17th minute, and in-form backrower Hugh Renton added another 10 minutes later.

But the Reds had the last say, with Wallaby winger Suliasi Vunivalu splitting two Highlanders defenders to stroll over for the visitors’ third try of the night.

Vunivalu’s try was converted by flyhalf Tom Lynagh, so the Reds went into the half-time sheds up 14-21 away from home.

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