Highlanders def. Western Force in a scrappy tug-o-war with the one point win on home turf at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin by 7-6

by Sports Benches

Saturday night’s Super Rugby match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, NZ was a tug-o-war for both of the bottom four teams on the table – the hosts Highlanders and the visitors Western Force from Perth. The first half was really quiet for the first 30-35 mins but the Force snagged the one successful penalty goal going into half-time by 0-3. Then the Highlanders have responded well with the one and only TRY from their No.9 Folau Fakatava in the 47th minute and although the Force might have won another penalty or two where they eventually found the second three-point penalty goal, but they were so fortunate to wrap up the night with a huge sigh relief including the home fans. The final score was Highlanders 7-6 Force.

Despite some injury cloud within the Highlanders dressing room, they now move to 8th ahead of Moana Pasifika with five rounds to go while the Force remain last after the Crusaders won for the 2nd time in a while last night in Christchurch v Melbourne Rebels 39-0. With that being said, Highlanders will jet off to Tonga v Moana Pasifika next Saturday afternoon as let’s see if they can overcome the visitors strong crowd to follow up another win to keep their Top 8 hopes alive. Force, on the other hand, will continue their NZ trip once more but then it will be even tougher v the Chiefs in Waikato next Saturday night.

We’ll start with Jake Te Hiwi on the inside centre at No.12 for the Highlanders who is not only defensively sound but can also smash it and create a hole for his team-mates to finish the job done as well. It goes to show he wears the shirt with pride considering he’s from there and has gone through the ranks that earned himself an opportunity to earn his stripes at Super Rugby level as his brute physicality and the way he talks up with his players saw the best out of him tonight. If one 22-year-old isn’t enough for the Highlanders fan to be excited about, how about Oliver Haig on the No.6 blindside back row? He might have grew up in the UK but moved to NZ during his teenage years and he’s loving his rugby here ever since. Surely the physical battle suits him perfectly in the best of both worlds and hemispheres whose showings tonight reflects how capable he is to push the Force out of his way and make them hard to beat defensively while he can back things up and shield the opposition with a brick wall going forward. Still a long way to go but if they can help keep the Highlanders on the right track & play Finals again, then that would be great for both Otago and NZ Rugby as these two here are future All Blacks material.

And Argentinean Santiago Medrano has been a huge part of the Western Force side for a few years now except 2022 after he put in a huge shift to try and stop the Highlanders in his tracks on the front row at tighthead. He’s tall and he’s got brute to muscle his way through the gate when his side won possession earlier on that saw his team-mate Ben Donaldson snag a late penalty goal just before half-time. Unfortunately, the Force just couldn’t make things work when their attacking executions was so isolated with 1-2 numbers having to do all the work by themselves despite having the advantage, which in turn let him and his forwards down defensively. The Force will have to give their all if they are to win the next odd game here and there.

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