Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

First Take: Overdue win for gritty Highlanders

Ben Smith of the Highlanders on the counter-attack during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo / Getty
Ben Smith of the Highlanders on the counter-attack during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo / Getty

Highlanders 33
Rebels 30

This had it all but as a rugby buffet it was not always palatable.

There was the early exit of Bryce Hegarty after a mid-air collision, several marginal tackles which did not provoke serious sanction, a wondrous Highlanders try ruled out because of a forward pass, the continuing mysteries of the scrums and all sorts of strange tactical kicking.

One of the more outrageous moments came after Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham intercepted near his line and when run down, put in a left foot grubber for five eighths Angus Roberts to score.

That was class from Aaron Smith who brought his snappy sidestep into play and Ben Smith ran his legs off as the two All Blacks worked overtime to bring some sting to the Highlanders attack.

There were moments when the Highlanders looked likely but the balance has not quite hit their work this season. There is no doubt about any of their endeavour, they all put in full shifts.

Foraging flanker Shane Christie put in a huge stint and once again there was the snarling threat from Malakai Fekitoa in midfield. But there was something missing.

Maybe it was the stop start conflict created by scrum issues for the side feeding the ball to the scrum, probably a case of two determined but less-efficient teams slogging it out.

When time was called the Highlanders had grabbed the result. They needed it and on the evidence of their gritty efforts this season, they will feel this victory was overdue.

- NZ Herald

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