DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — The New South Wales Waratahs wore down the 14-man Highlanders to achieve a 32-20 win which lifted them from seventh to sixth place in Super Rugby Pacific.
The Waratahs led 19-7 at halftime on Sunday and held out a brief second half rally from the Highlanders before a late try to flyhalf Tane Edmed closed out their first win in Dunedin in 14 years.
The Highlanders were reduced to 14 men in the 29th minute when flyhalf Sam Gilbert was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Michael Hooper. The Waratahs capitalized with two tries in the next eight minutes to break open a previously close game.
The Highlanders scored first through Josh Dickson in the seventh minute and the Waratahs replied with an 11th minute try to backrower Will Harris.
The match remained locked at 7-7 until the 32nd minute when, with Gilbert absent, Waratahs captain Jake Gordon combined with Edmed to create a try to winger Mark Nawaqanitawase. A superb try to Hooper five minutes later allowed the Waratahs to go into halftime with a 12-point lead.
The Highlanders rallied with a try to Scott Gregory in the 56th minute which cut the lead to 19-15 while the Waratahs were a man short with Paddy Ryan in the sin-bin.
For a short time the Waratahs found themselves under pressure but went back to first principles, making ground with strong one-off running and turning the Highlanders with accurate kicking.
The Highlanders’s discipline was poor throughout the match; they conceded far too many breakdown penalties and turned over possession too often in attack to be fully competitive.
“It was a tight contest,” Gordon said. “They got the first try but we wrestled back momentum, played some pretty good footy when we got the ball and executed well when we had our chances.”
Edmed kicked two penalties through the middle of the second half to extend the Waratahs lead to 10 points, then Edmed’s own try made the lead 30-15 and sealed the match for the visitors.
The Highlanders now have to beat the Melbourne Rebels in their final regular season match next weekend to secure their current eighth place on the ladder, which qualifies them for the quarterfinals.
“I think we lacked a bit of intensity,” Highlanders captain Aaron Smith said. “We started well with a good try but indiscipline crept up on us and you can't play well with 14 men.”
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