The NSW Waratahs have won back-to-back matches in New Zealand for the first time since 2009, and their first match in Dunedin in over 14 years with a 32-20 win over the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Waratahs Head Coach Darren Coleman rotated his squad for the match, leaving Jed Holloway in Sydney and Angus Bell, Charlie Gamble, and Ned Hanigan to start the match on the bench. The decision proved a masterstroke with the Waratahs clinging to a seven-point lead in the 60th minute when all three took the field.
Unlike last week’s match against the Hurricanes where the Waratahs squandered a 15-0 lead, the Waratahs bench showed plenty of punch, with Gamble’s presence over the ball proving a handful for the Highlander’s attack and Hanigan setting up the match sealing try for Tane Edmed in his first match back for the team.
The Waratahs return to Sydney with four vital competition points and move above the Queensland Reds into sixth spot on the ladder.
Waratahs captain Jake Gordon was thrilled with his sides ability to close out the match.
“It was a tight contest,” Gordon said.
“We wrestled back momentum, played some good footy, held the ball well and executed when we got our chances.
“We spoked about finishing games strongly because the last few games we hadn’t.
“It was a great team effort.”
Despite the result it was the home side that dominated the early stages of the game, racing out to a 7-0 lead courtesy of a try to Josh Dixson in just the third minute.
The Waratahs fought their way back and levelled the scores courtesy of a Will Harris try before the game was turned on its head after Highlanders flyhalf Sam Gilbert lifted Michael Hooper and recklessly dropped the Wallabies captain on his head, receiving a red card in the process.
Tane Edmed made the Highlanders pay straight away taking advantage of the numerical advantage with a beautiful cut out pass for Mark Nawaqanitawase to score in the corner.
Michael Hooper showed his class and doubled the pain for the home side, catching the Highlanders defence napping at the ruck, scooping up the ball and racing away 30 metres to score and give the Waratahs a 19-7 lead at the break.
Marty Banks kicked a penalty goal before the Waratahs found themselves down to 14 men after Paddy Ryan received a yellow card for a dangerous clean out.
Scott Gregory scored for the Highlanders to cut the Waratahs lead to just four points, before Darren Coleman rang the changes unleashing Angus Bell, Ned Hanigan and Charlie Gamble.
The changes paid dividends as the Waratahs managed to regain control with Tane Edmed slotting two penalty goals and scoring a try late to seal the game.
Liam Coombes-Fabling scored a consolation try for the Highlanders after the bell to leave the scores 32-20.
The Waratahs now look towards their final game of the regular season against the Blues next Saturday at Leichhardt Oval.
Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Rory van Vugt, 10 Sam Gilbert, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 James Lentjes, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Sam Caird, 3 Saula Ma'u, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Luca Inch, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Marino Mikaele Tu'u 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Liam Coombes-Fabling
Waratahs: 15 Ben Donaldson, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Langi Gleeson, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Geoff Cridge, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Te Tera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jeremy Williams, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Charlie Gamble, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Jamie Roberts