Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

First Take: Bad outweighs good for Highlanders

Journeymen like Richard Buckman, who scored two tries to topple the Lions, have had surprising seasons. Photo / Getty
Journeymen like Richard Buckman, who scored two tries to topple the Lions, have had surprising seasons. Photo / Getty

There is a lot of terrific news about the Highlanders but the bad will eventually trump the good.

Still, it's been one heck of a season for this super surprise packet including the bizarre win over the Lions in Dunedin, which has kept them near the top of the table.

Referee Angus Gardner did them a massive favour, not allowing the Lions to re-take a winning conversion attempt on fulltime. It won't be enough to save the Highlanders though.

First, the good news: the Highlanders are an underdog story akin to Marlborough winning the Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury in the early 1970s. It's a rugby fairytale just as good as the Crusaders' miracle world tour into the 2011 Super 15 final.

On paper, these Highlanders are one of the worst teams to ever hang around in Super 15 finals contention. Their pack could get beaten up in the ITM Cup.

They are rags to riches kings, with journeymen like Richard Buckman surprising us all. The best redemption story of the year is Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph.

Here's the bad news: they haven't got a hope in hell of winning the title, or even much chance of making the playoffs.

The party is over. Their run home is a nightmare. They face far more powerful New Zealand rivals - the Crusaders twice plus the Hurricanes and Chiefs. Even their soft game, against the Reds, will be tough as it is played in Queensland.

These magnificent Highlanders will help decide the title, but it won't go further than that.

- NZ Herald

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