(MENAFN – Arab Times) The Highlanders band of rejects cemented their fairytale season with the Super 15 crown when they outplayed the more illustrious Wellington Hurricanes 21-14 in a frenetic final on Saturday.
“The TMO hasn’t been on my side this whole year so I thought it might not go my way”, he said.
Hooker Oliver has played the most games for the Highlanders (127), while Brown scored the most Super Rugby points (942), although he also played two seasons for the Sharks and Stormers.
The Highlanders have produced heist after heist all season but unleashed Super Rugby’s version of daylight robbery against the Hurricanes to claim a maiden title.
Barrett, who had missed three shots at the goal in the first half as he failed to build any scoreboard pressure for the Hurricanes, was successful with three penalties in the second to drag his side back into the contest. They spent much of the game offside in Sydney but without ever incurring a yellow card, and nor did they care about getting booed for having a drop at goal – Lima Sopoaga nailed one to wrap things up in the closing stages.
The match was played at a frenetic pace with Highlanders flyhalf Sopoaga’s fifth minute penalty the only points in the first quarter despite both sides hammering away at each other.
“I’m gutted for management, the players, the club because we deserve better than this”, captain Conrad Smith said.
Coach Jamie Joseph reserved praise for Edinburgh-bound No. 8 Manu, who played with tape over his right eye to keep it open following an injury in the semi-finals.
The Highlanders may have been beaten twice by the Hurricanes this season but easily dispatched two-time champions the Chiefs and last year’s winners the NSW Waratahs in the playoffs and were not being taken lightly.
Before Saturday’s kick-off the Highlanders were given little chance of upsetting the Hurricanes, but after seizing that early lead through Sopoaga they never released their grip on the match.
At the heart of their defensive effort was man of the match Dixon, the uncapped Southland flanker who unleashed the best game of his career on the big stage.
Trailing 18-11 with just 20 minutes remaining, the Hurricanes flyer was completely un-opposed when he received a pass five metres out from the Highlanders’ tryline.
The Hurricanes cut into the lead with Barrett’s first penalty immediately after halftime but the Highlanders made the game safe with Naholo’s try in the 46th minute.