It’s become a Super Rugby tradition that when the Chiefs and the Highlanders clash, there are tries aplenty.
That’s exactly how Friday night’s match kicked off, with three tries scored in the first half – and a number of near misses – as the Chiefs took a 20-11 lead into halftime.
The Chiefs, who weren’t able to score any wins throughout last year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa season, had the better of the half with the Highlanders having to spend 20 minutes with men in the bin.
Midfielder Patelesio Tomkinson and hooker Ash Dixon were handed yellow cards for offside play – products of the team’s ill-discipline.
With their on-field advantage, the Chiefs managed to touch down for two relatively easy scores – the first to returning loose forward Luke Jacobson and the second to All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 5, 2021
With a 20-6 lead and the ball inside the Highlanders 22, it looked like things were about to go from bad to worse for the defending side – who had just loss Dixon to the sinbin in somewhat unfortunate circumstances, given the Chiefs had just thrown two borderline passes.
The script was quickly thrown to the side, however.
Bryn Gatland, in his first game for the Chiefs, attempted to pop a chip over the Highlanders line but a defender managed to get a touch to the kick, causing it to ricochet into Highlanders left wing Jona Nareki’s arms.
Nareki, a former New Zealand Sevens rep, looked upfield and saw plenty of space ahead of him – and put his foot down.
Skipping around Gatland, Nareki galloped ahead – and despite an exceptional chase from Chiefs wing Jonah Lowe, it was goodnight nurse for the Chiefs.
It was a remarkable turn of events, given the pressure that the Highlanders were under, and a key moment that could have a massive impact on the final result.
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