Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga broke the Bulls’s hearts with a successful last penalty kick of the game. The Kiwis, thanks to the unerring boot of Sopoaga, won 29-28.
The hosts controlled 70 percent of the ball and possession but they couldn’t translate the absolute dominance in all aspects of the game to a victory. It is a credit to the counter attacking ability of the Highlanders that they still managed to triumph with such limited ball and field position.
The two experienced All Black Smiths, Aaron and Ben, were crucial to the visitors victory.
The Bulls pack was superb in the scrum and lineout, with loosehead Lizo Gqoboka particularly prominent. Marco van Staden, among the loose-forwards, was also excellent as was the lock duo of RG Snyman and Lood de Jager.
Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard had his best match of the season and Jesse Kriel again impressed with his attack and work rate.
Still, however, the Bulls didn’t win, which says a heck of a lot about the visitors resolve.
The Highlanders, trailing 14-7 just before half time, somehow turned the disadvantage into a 23-14 lead after 50 minutes. It took the Bulls until the 76th minute to restore the lead through Pollard’s brilliance on attack and Kriel’s finishing.
But disaster struck for the home team when they conceded a penalty in the 79th minute and Sopoaga calmly slotted the winning kick.
- The Highlanders have now won five of their last six games against the Bulls; however, the Pretoria outfit have earned a losing bonus point in each of those five defeats.
- The Highlanders have won their last five regular season games in succession in South Africa, which is a franchise record.
Tries: Penalty Try, Handre Pollard, Jason Jenkins, Jesse Kriel
Conversions: Handre Pollard (3)
Tries: Aaron Smith, Fletcher Smith
Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2)
Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (5)
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Divan Rossouw, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 Jason Jenkins, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Frans van Wyk, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Hendre Stassen, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Travis Ismaiel
15 Fletcher Smith, 14 Ben Smith (co-captain), 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Alex Ainley, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Kayne Hammington, 23 Sio Tomkinson
- 80+1‘Lima Sopoaga adds the points for Highlanders.
- 77‘Highlanders have won 40 rucks so far this game.
- 75‘Conraad Van Vuuren comes on.
- 75‘Trevor Nyakane comes off.
- 75‘Handre Pollard adds the two points for Bulls.
- 75‘That’s a great try assist by Handre Pollard.
- 75‘Fabulous play by Bulls has led to Jesse Kriel being able to wriggle through a gap.
- 74‘A series of passes by Bulls results in a try for Jesse Kriel.
- 74‘Bulls have won 100 rucks so far this game.
- 74‘Lima Sopoaga has made 10 good tackles so far this game.
- 72‘Trouble here as Jaco Visagie breaches the defence.
- 72‘Highlanders decide to make a substitution, with Sio Tomkinson getting some game time.
- 72‘Highlanders decide to make a substitution, with Fletcher Smith being replaced.
- 70‘Highlanders make a substitution with Kalolo Tuiloma coming on.
- 70‘Highlanders make a substitution with Tyrel Lomax coming off.
- 70‘Highlanders sub Alex Ainley comes onto the field.
- 70‘Thomas Franklin departs for Highlanders.
- 63‘This is dangerous for the defence as Jesse Kriel bursts through to advance the Bulls attack.
- 62‘Kayne Hammington comes on for Highlanders.
- 62‘Aaron Smith leaves the field.
- 62‘Lima Sopoaga does the business as his penalty goal attempt goes over.
- 58‘Embrose Papier comes on.
- 58‘Ivan van Zyl comes off.
- 58‘Handre Pollard does the business as his conversion attempt goes over.
- 58‘James Lentjes comes on.
- 58‘Dillon Hunt comes off.
- 58‘Shannon Frizell comes on.
- 58‘Elliot Dixon comes off.
- 57‘Bulls have won 80 rucks so far this game.
- 57‘A gap opened in the defence and Lizo Gqoboka took full advantage.
- 57‘Elliot Dixon has made 10 good tackles so far this game.
- 56‘Bulls are only a few metres out, surely they must score! And they do with Jason Jenkins touching down.
- 56‘Dillon Hunt has made 10 good tackles so far this game.
- 55‘Bulls decide to make a substitution, with Nick de Jager getting some game time.
- 55‘Bulls decide to make a substitution, with RG Snyman being replaced.
- 54‘Bulls make a substitution with Jaco Visagie coming on.
- 54‘Bulls make a substitution with Adriaan Strauss coming off.
- 53‘Highlanders have won 20 rucks so far this game.
- 52‘Bulls sub Travis Ismaiel comes onto the field.
- 52‘John-Ben Kotze departs for Bulls.
- 52‘Lima Sopoaga makes no mistake with that penalty goal attempt.
- 50‘The defensive line has been broken as Dillon Hunt goes through the gap.
- 49‘Ash Dixon comes on for Highlanders.
- 49‘Liam Coltman leaves the field.
- 49‘Aki Seiuli comes on.
- 49‘Dan Lienert-Brown comes off.
- 47‘Bulls have won 60 rucks so far this game.
- 47‘Luke Whitelock has made 10 good tackles so far this game.
- 45‘What a run here by Teihorangi Walden as they gets over the gainline!.
- 43‘Lima Sopoaga makes no mistake with that conversion attempt.
- 43‘Aaron Smith sets up the try.
- 42‘Great hands by Highlanders leads to a try for Fletcher Smith.
- 42‘Ben Smith makes the break as the defence re-enacts the parting of the red sea.
- 42‘Lima Sopoaga kicks the penalty.
- 40‘The second half is underway.
- 40+1‘The half-time whistle blows and both teams’ head for the dressing rooms.
- 40+1‘Thomas Franklin has made 10 good tackles so far this game.
- 37‘Bulls have won 40 rucks so far this game.
- 33‘Lima Sopoaga has kicked a penalty goal.
- 30‘Handre Pollard converts the try.
- 29‘Handre Pollard intercepts the pass to race ahead and score the try for Bulls.
- 29‘Fabulous play by Bulls has led to Handre Pollard being able to wriggle through a gap.
- 27‘Trouble here as Thembelani Bholi breaches the defence.
- 22‘Fletcher Smith (Highlanders) is shown a yellow card.
- 21‘The referee awards a penalty try to Bulls.
- 21‘Bulls have won 20 rucks so far this game.
- 13‘This is dangerous for the defence as Lima Sopoaga bursts through to advance the Highlanders attack.
- 12‘A gap opened in the defence and Thomas Franklin took full advantage.
- 4‘Lima Sopoaga has kicked a conversion.
- 2‘The kick through from Highlanders has allowed Aaron Smith to touch down.
- 2‘The defensive line has been broken as Fletcher Smith goes through the gap.
- We are underway as the referee blows his whistle.