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Highlanders break duck in heart-stopper

Published: 9:54PM Saturday May 04, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

The pain is over! The Highlanders have finally broken their duck with a heart-stopping 25-22 win over the Sharks at Forsyth Barr tonight.

Trailing 15-7 at halftime, the Highlanders roared out to a 25-15 lead before a gallant Sharks side nearly stole the match at the death.

The sound of the final whistle coincided with an overflow of emotion from a team who had their first win since July last year and that was no more evident than from the joy from Super Rugby centurion Brad Thorn.

In the frantic final minutes the All Black legend had been sent to the sin bin as the Sharks looked like they would get the win that would elevate them to second in the South African Conference, but a massive hit by Hosea Gear in the 83rd minute ended the contest and then the celebrations began.

But they won't last for long with the Highlanders hitting the road to South Africa tomorrow where they face the Kings and Bulls in successive weeks, but after tonight they can look forward to that trip with some confidence.

Aaron Smith and Colin Slade finally gelled as a combination while their forward pack gained parity at a fiercely fought breakdown.

Center Shaun Treeby, returning from injury, scored the home team's opening try in the 10th minute. But Bosman's first try and a superb counter-attacking effort from Lwazi Mvovo put the Sharks 15-7 ahead at halftime.

Slade hit the post twice with penalty attempts, but his try and another by halfback Aaron Smith gave the Highlanders a 10-point lead midway through the second half. The Sharks hit back through Bosman's second try 19 minutes from fulltime before their late, unsuccessful push.

Slade's try was the last scoring play by the Highlanders, giving them a 25-15 lead with 25 minutes left. When center Meyer Bosman scored his second try of the night for the Sharks, slashing the lead to three points, the Highlanders' winless run to the season look liked it might be extended.

They defended with outstanding commitment throughout the last 20 minutes of the match, mostly situated on their own line and finally with only 14 men as the 38-year-old Thorn watched on from the sideline.

The Sharks attacked relentlessly in the last 10 minutes, often carrying the ball for more than 20 phases within 10 meters of the line. The Highlanders repelled one such attack in the 78th minute, finally forcing a turnover on the 25th phase but managing only to clear the ball to touch until Gear had the final say.

Highlanders 25 (Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, Shaun Treeby tries Slade 2 cons 2 pens)
Sharks 22 (Meyer Bosman 2, Lwazi Mvovo tries Patrick Lambie 2 cons pen)
Halftime: 7-15

- with AAP