Highlanders, Saders share spoils

The Highlanders and Crusaders played to a 19-19 draw in their pre-season match in Waimumu on Thursday.

What promised to be a cracking encounter, was dulled slightly by rain just before kick-off. Nonetheless, supporters were treated to a classic Kiwi derby as both sides looked to attack the line at every opportunity.

The Highlanders opened the scoring early when Tei Waden collected flyhalf Marty Banks’s chargedown. Banks missed the conversion, though.

The reigning Super Rugby champions held onto their five-point lead for much of the first half before winger Sione Fifita went over in the corner to open the Crusaders' account. Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga converted to put the Saders in front.

After trailing for most of the first half the Crusaders took a slender 7-5 lead into half-time.

World Cup-winning scrumhalf Aaron Smith was introduced in the second half and ignited the Highlanders' attack. The champs regained the lead soon after the break as centre Malakai Fekitoa broke two tackles to score close to the posts. Banks added the extras to restore his side’s five-point advantage.

It was looking to be a sure win for the reigning champs when winger Patrick Osborne scored their third try of the match. Lima Sopoaga stretched their lead with a successful conversion.

However, the Crusaders would have the last say. Replacement back Nemani Ndolo converted his own try to put the Saders within five points before flanker Tim Boys levelled the scores from the back of a lineout drive on the stroke of full-time. Mo’unga missed the kick and the match ended all square.

Highlanders  Tries: Tei Waden, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne. Conversions: Marty Banks, Lima Sopoaga.
Crusaders  Tries: Sione Fifita, Nemani Nadolo, Tim Boys. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga, Nadolo.

Highlanders  15 Matt Faddes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Josh Renton, 8 Luke Whitelock (c), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Subs: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ross Geldenhuys, Joe Wheeler, Sio Tomkinson, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, Jason Emery, Ryan Tongia, Lima Sopoaga, Elliot Dixon, Shane Christie, Jackson Hemopo.

Crusaders  15 David Havili, 14 George Bridge, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Sione Fifita, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: Ged Robinson, Wyatt Crockett, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Mitchell Dunshea, Reed Prinsep, Leon Fukofuka, Ben Volavola, Marty McKenzie, Jone Macilai, Mitchell Hunt, Nemani Nadolo.

Photo: Rob Jeffries/Getty Images