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Highlanders weather frantic first half to beat Waratahs

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The Highlanders have emerged from a frantic first half to notch up a 59-23 win over the Waratahs in Dunedin on Saturday to secure a bonus point and pull level with the Crusaders on the trans-Tasman Super Rugby table.

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Fullback Michael Collins opens the scoring for the Highlanders
Photo: Photosport

The Highlanders crossed for nine tries and moved onto 18 points from their first four games in the competition, level with the Crusaders and one adrift of leaders the Blues.

The teams scored seven tries between them in a thrilling opening 40 minutes, with the Highlanders eventually emerging from a first half try-fest with a 10-point lead.

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Five of those tries were scored in the opening 21 minutes, with the Highlanders picking up their first with less than two minutes on the clock when fullback Michael Collins sprinted through to finish off a move that started at the line-out.

But Will Harrison’s penalty for the Waratahs was followed by Jack Maddocks’ 11th minute try, only for Sio Tomkinson to put the Highlanders back in front.

The teams continued to trade tries as Mark Nawaqanitawase scored for the Waratahs before Ethan De Groot popped over the line for the Highlanders’ third try in the 21st minute and give them two-point lead.

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Another Harrison penalty briefly swung the scoreboard back in the Waratahs’ favour but tries from Ash Dixon and Jona Nareki finally established a 10-point half-time advantage for the Highlanders.

The home side’s lead increased five minutes after the restart when De Groot crossed for his second try of the night and Kazuki Himeno’s effort was the Highlanders’ seventh 18 minutes from time.

Nareki’s second opened even more distance between the teams in the 70th minute and Teariki Ben-Nicholas scored his side’s ninth with four minutes left on the clock.

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– Reuters

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