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Watch: Magician Aaron Smith sets up two sublimes tries for Highlanders in opening quarter of Rebels battle

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

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At 32 years of age, Aaron Smith is perhaps in career-best form and has at times almost single-handedly won matches for the Highlanders throughout 2021.

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His sublime skills were on full display in the opening 20 minutes of the Highlanders’ clash with the Rebels in Sydney on Sunday evening, with the 97-cap All Black playing a massive role in his side’s opening two tries.

In fact, it took just two minutes for the ‘home’ team (despite the match being played in Australia) to nab their first score of the night, with midfielder Michael Collins eventually dotting down near the posts.

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It was the product of a deftly weight box kick from halfback Smith, who popped the ball onto the boot from a lineout maul near the Rebels’ 22.

The ball hit turf in front of the posts and Collins was on hand to snaffle the ball in a tussle with Rebels fullback George Worth.

Up by seven with barely any rugby played, the Highlanders weren’t going to take their foot off the pedal – and from a Shannon Frizell steal just inside the Highlanders’ half, the New Zealanders struck thanks to some exceptional interplay between backs and forwards.

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Smith fed the ball to wing Jona Nareki who danced through a pair of Rebels in the middle of the park before offloading to young loosehad prop Ethan de Groot.

The 22-year-old then threw a one-handed offload to Smith who was able to almost instantaneously slip the ball to hooker Liam Coltman.

From the ensuing ruck, the ball was quickly spread through the hands to the right touchline where Patelesio Tomkinson stepped around Marika Koroibete and dotted down for the score.

From Frizell’s steal, eight further Highlanders were involved in the try, with Smith getting three touches of the ball.

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It was an excellent touchdown and one that highlighted the excellent ball movement that New Zealand teams are so famous for.

Despite rushing out to a 14-0 lead, the Rebels fought their way back into the game and trailed by just two points at the halftime break.

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Watch: Magician Aaron Smith sets up two sublimes tries for Highlanders in opening quarter of Rebels battle

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