5 Jul 2015

Highlanders take chances and win Super Rugby title

8:20 am on 5 July 2015

The Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says his side was able to grab the couple of chances that came their way as they picked up their first Super Rugby title.

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The visitors beat the highly-fancied Hurricanes 21-14 in the decider in Wellington.

The Highlanders scored two tries to one and defended well to claim the win.

Joseph says there wasn't much between the sides, he says he was getting tired just watching the game because of the pace and continuous play.

He says both sides defended really well, they had a couple of chances and took them and in finals rugby Elliot Dixon's try was a real momentum boost for them just before half time.

In one of the game's key battles, first-five Lima Sopoaga completely outplayed his All Blacks opposite Beauden Barrett with a superb kicking game, slotting two penalties and a conversion for the visitors before replacement Marty Banks sent over a 78th minute drop goal to seal the win.

The Hurricanes, who had topped the regular season table, were unable to exert themselves on much of the game with the Highlanders slowing down their ball at the breakdown and playing at their own pace.

The home side also made numerous errors and wasted a wealth of possession with sloppy handling and accuracy while attempting to play too much rugby inside their own territory.

The unheralded Highlanders loosie Eliot Dixon, who was easily the best player on the field and typified his side's blue-collar, no frills approach, had given his side a 13-5 lead at halftime with a 40th-minute try.

He broke through four defenders but appeared unsure if he had grounded the ball as he reached out in the tackle but television match official Ben Skeen advised referee Jaco Peyper to award the try, which was converted by Sopoaga.

Dixon says their tactics have been second to none and that's a credit to the coaches.

The Highlanders after beating the Hurricanes in the Super 15 final.

The Highlanders after beating the Hurricanes in the Super 15 final. Photo: Photosport

The match was played at a frenetic pace with Sopoaga's fifth minute penalty the only points in the first quarter despite both sides hammering away at each other like prizefighters.

Sopoaga added a second penalty in the 29th minute to give his side a 6-0 advantage before Hurricanes centre Ma'a Nonu crashed over for Wellington's only first half points shortly before Dixon's score.

Barrett, who had missed three shots at the goal in the first half as he failed to build any scoreboard pressure for the Hurricanes, was successful with three penalties in the second to drag his side back into the contest.

However, a dropped pass by hulking winger Julian Savea in the 62nd minute with the line at his mercy appeared to sum up the Hurricanes' performance as they made numerous mistakes in scoring positions.

Winger Waisake Naholo scored the Highlanders second try.

The Highlanders then positioned Banks, who replaced an injured Sopoaga, for the drop goal before they ran down the clock for a deserved victory, which they celebrated wildly when scrumhalf Aaron Smith kicked into touch after the final hooter.

The Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says it was a missed opportunity as his players made far too many mistakes to build any pressure.

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