May 04, 2019

Match Report - Gallagher Chiefs secure draw against Highlanders

A courageous comeback from the Gallagher Chiefs has seen them come away from Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin with a 31-31 draw against the Highlanders.

Following on from their round one encounter, which the Highlanders won 30-27, the two teams produced another thrilling contest with the Chiefs showing great spirit to fight back with three tries in the final quarter to share the points, outscoring the home side in the end by five tries to four.

The Chiefs looked to have gotten off to a perfect start when Anton Lienert-Brown kicked ahead a loose ball from inside his own half and scored inside the opening few minutes, but play was called back for a knock on.

From the resulting scrum, the Highlanders then worked towards the line and scored the first try of the evening with first five Josh Ioane sliding through the defence off the back of a powerful run from Number 8 Elliot Dixon.

The response from the Chiefs came just minutes later as halfback Brad Weber scored a runaway try following a clean break in midfield from Number 8 Tyler Ardron.

Throughout the remainder of the first quarter the Highlanders looked the more likely to score, and eventually it was fullback Ben Smith who crossed the line after Ioane had sparked the attack with a classy chip and chase.

Following the Highlanders' second try, the defence from both sides tightened up with most of the play taking place in the middle of the field.

Eventually the Chiefs managed to breach the Highlanders line as their backline broke clear from near halfway and loose forward Luke Jacobson, who still had plenty of work to do, finished in the left-hand corner with a strong run.

Holding on to their slim two-point lead, the Highlanders started the second half strongly, knowing that the next points would go a long way towards their fifth win of the season.

In the 46th minute, off the back of a five metre scrum, a brilliant offload from halfback Aaron Smith put wing Matt Faddes in the clear to score in the right-hand corner.

Josh Ioane nailed the sideline conversion to stretch the home side's lead to 21-12.

It was that man Ioane again who created the next scoring play, as he made a clean break which ended in James Lentjes spinning over the line in the tackle of two defenders for the Highlanders fourth try.

With the game slipping away, the Chiefs came charging back into the match, scoring two tries in quick succession.

Firstly, they produced a nicely worked move close to the line between several forwards, and replacement prop Angus Ta’avao scored to give the visitors some hope.

Another try just a few minutes came thanks to some superb offloading from Jacobson, Lienert-Brown and Solomon Alaimalo, with Tyler Ardron finishing for a deserved try after another impressive performance from the Canadian.

McKenzie's conversion closed the gap to just four points to set up a tense final 10 minutes.

The Highlanders showed their class as they held onto possession and worked their way downfield to take time off the clock. With two minutes left they won a penalty within range for Ioane, and he made no mistake to push the lead back out to seven points.

From the restart however, Luke Jacobson pounced on a Highlanders mistake to put the Chiefs on the front foot, and they marched relentlessly downfield, with Ta'avao squeezing his way over for his second try. McKenzie quickly converted from right in front to tie the scores.

There were brief chances for both sides in a frantic final 60 seconds, but the ball eventually went into touch to end a pulsating 80 minutes of rugby with the teams sharing the points.

Gallagher Chiefs 31 (Angus Ta’avao 2, Brad Weber, Luke Jacobson, Tyler Ardron tries; Marty McKenzie 3 cons) Highlanders 31 (Josh Ioane, Ben Smith, Matt Faddes, James Lentjes tries; Josh Ioane 4 cons, pen) HT: 12-14.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head back to FMG Stadium Waikato to prepare for the Sharks next Saturday evening (11 May, 7.35pm).

Match Report - Gallagher Chiefs secure draw against Highlanders