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Highlanders engage Gear to grind out tough victory despite clocking off early


Marc Hinton


Andy Ellis of the Crusaders scores a try.

Andy Ellis of the Crusaders scores a try. Photo: Getty Images

DUNEDIN: Otago rugby may be flat broke, but their Highlanders are flush with talent, optimism and followers as they continued their impressive start to the new Super Rugby season last night.

Jamie Joseph's men, at what must be the noisiest rugby stadium in New Zealand, stunned the Crusaders with a 27-24, three-tries-to-two victory that was just reward for a fabulously committed and skilful performance - even if it did end in farcical fashion.


Tamati Ellison of the Highlanders is tackled. Click for more photos

Highlanders stun Crusaders in Super upset

A try in the 70th minute by Hosea Gear gives the Highlanders a shock victory 27-24 over the Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images

After Hosea Gear's 69th-minute try put the home team in front for the final time, the Highlanders twice kicked the ball out thinking they had won the match because the ground clock showed time up. In the first instance there were still three minutes left, in the second, one.

But the Highlanders survived their faux pas and held on for a victory that sent 23,000 joyous souls out into a cool Dunedin night to celebrate.

This was the best match of the season so far. The Highlanders won because their forwards were more aggressive at the breakdown and shaded the possession battle. They also finished well and made best use of the good conditions to run in the tries when they had to.

The Highlanders deservedly took a 20-10 lead into the sheds after a surging first half where they scored two tries to one and made most of the play.

It was the visitors who scored the first try, after an early penalty apiece. From a lineout, Robbie Fruean was the target in midfield, in a flash Matt Todd was through and Israel Dagg was finishing handy to the posts.

Two minutes later the Highlanders were back on terms at 10-10 when Andrew Hore did very well from about 15 metres out to barrel over. HIs try was followed by Lima Sopoaga slotting a second penalty and Burleigh sneaking a try before the break.

But the Crusaders were not going to go quietly. Tyler Bleyendaal slotted a second penalty, Andy Ellis their second try and it was game back on at 18-20. Two further Bleyendaal three-pointers followed and the visitors led 24-20. But this is a Highlanders outfit made of much sterner stuff and Gear's excellent try sealed victory.

HIGHLANDERS 27 (Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore tries Lima Sopoaga 3 cons 2 pens) bt CRUSADERS 24 (Israel Dagg, Andrew Ellis tries Tyler Bleyendaal con 4 pens) at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Referee: Jaco Peyper.

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Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
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SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
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AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
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ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
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CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
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NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
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SAM 33vs SCO 36 Stats
AUS 0vs WAL 0 Stats
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00Leicester City Stadium
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ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
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Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
NZL 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs ARG 0 23:00MilS
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LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
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Team P W L D +/- Pts
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Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 3 0 3 0 -139 0
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South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
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Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
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Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 3 0 3 0 -59 1
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Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Romania 3 1 2 0 -59 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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