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Naholo back with two tries as Highlanders beat Chiefs

Naholo back with two tries as Highlanders beat Chiefs
By Reuters

07/05/2016 at 11:35Updated 07/05/2016 at 14:21

Waisake Naholo returned from two months out with a broken leg to score two tries and help create another to give the Otago Highlanders an impressive 26-13 Super League victory over the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

The victory for the 2015 champions moved them into fourth place in the Australasian group on 32 points, five behind the competition-leading Crusaders and Chiefs, who are both on 37.

The Chiefs, whose form has gone off the boil in the last month yet still managed to eke out wins, were reduced to 14 men twice during the match.

Inside centre Charlie Ngatai was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle on the stroke of halftime before Maama Vaipulu received a yellow card for a professional foul with 12 minutes remaining and his side trailing 23-8.

For the Highlanders, prop Dan Lienert-Brown also scored a try, which had been sparked by a counter-attacking burst from Naholo, while flyhalf Lima Sopoaga slotted three penalties. Marty Banks added a conversion.

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden slotted an early penalty and grabbed a try while replacement Sam Vaka scored a consolation try in the final minute for the Chiefs.

With the game billed as a showdown between All Blacks contenders, the Highlanders' strategy that relied heavily on a tactical kicking game and aggressive defence that kept the home side on the back foot was executed to test-match level.

The tactics worked for the most part, even though the Chiefs managed to make several line breaks only for the scrambling defence of the visitors proving up to the task of stopping the best try-scoring side in the competition.

The defensive effort helped the Highlanders stamp their authority on the competition and remind their fellow contenders why they won the title for the first time last year.

The Chiefs only first half points came from an early Cruden penalty, while Sopoaga, both of whom were playing in front of the All Blacks selectors, slotted two in reply.

Lienert-Brown also scored a try after Naholo launched another counter-attack that swept down field to give his side a 13-3 lead at the break.

RESULTS

Sunwolves (Japan) 22 Western Force (Australia) 40

Chiefs (New Zealand) 13 Highlanders (New Zealand) 26

Waratahs (Australia) 21 Cheetahs (South Africa) 6

STANDINGS

P W D F A B Pts

1. Crusaders (New Zealand) 9 8 0 298 168 5 37

2. Stormers (South Africa) 9 6 0 248 158 5 29

3. Chiefs (New Zealand) 10 8 0 342 238 5 37

4. Highlanders (New Zealand) 10 7 0 261 179 4 32

5. Hurricanes (New Zealand) 9 6 0 287 194 7 31

6. Bulls (South Africa) 9 6 1 250 190 2 28

7. Lions (South Africa) 9 6 0 268 235 3 27

8. Brumbies (Australia) 10 6 0 247 225 1 25

9. Waratahs (Australia) 9 5 0 225 181 5 25

10. Rebels (Australia) 9 5 0 213 228 3 23

11. Sharks (South Africa) 9 4 1 174 156 4 22

12. Blues (New Zealand) 8 4 1 196 200 2 20

13. Cheetahs (South Africa) 10 2 0 262 276 4 12

14. Jaguares (Argentina) 9 2 0 237 254 4 12

15. Reds (Australia) 10 2 1 184 280 2 12

16. Western Force (Australia) 10 2 0 183 321 2 10

17. Sunwolves (Japan) 9 1 0 202 362 3 7

18. Southern Kings (South Africa) 8 1 0 152 384 0 4

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