March 31, 2023
The Dunedin, New Zealand-based Highlanders have dominated the second half after a tight and high-scoring first half to beat Moana Pasifika 45-17 in a sixth-round match in Super Rugby Pacific.
The teams went to the break with the Highlanders leading 19-17 after a half which saw five tries, three to the Highlanders.
The Highlanders extended their lead with four more tries in the second half and now have won three straight matches after starting the season with three defeats.
"Three wins in a row, that's awesome," Highlanders captain Billy Harmon said.
"We had a slow start but we knew that we were right there, we knew that we were going to build and our performances are just getting better and better.
"We've got belief in our game and it's awesome to see."
Moana Pasifika opened the scoring with a try in the fifth minute to Solomone Funaki.
The ball first went out to the left flank where winger Miracle Faiilagi ran strongly, then traveled back across the field for Funaki to score on the right.
The Highlanders hit back quickly with a try to Pari Pari Parkinson from a lineout. Hugh Renton carried the ball in a looping run round the back and Parkinson had the strength to drive into a gap and score.
Fullback Sam Gilbert ran into the backline and through stretched defense to extend the Highlanders' lead to 12-7 before Moana Pasifika again went ahead with a try to Levi Aumua who carried the ball strongly through tackles near the line.
Renton scored in the 26th minute to put the Highlanders ahead 19-14 and Moana Pasifika narrowed the lead before halftime with a penalty to Lincoln McClutchie.
The Highlanders had a strong second half with good phase play and one-off running among the forwards. The Moana Pasifika defense often was stretched by the serial nature of the attacks.
After strong lead-up play by Renton, Fetuli Paea scored in the the 51st minute and Folau Fakatava set up a try for Mosese Dawai with a dummy half and inside pass from scrumhalf.
Marino Makaele-Tu'u and Thomas Umaga-Jensen scored before the end of the match as the Highlanders secured a bonus-point win.
PASIFIKA 17 (TRIES: Funaki, Aumua CONS: McClutchie 2/2 PENS: McClutchie 1/2 )
HIGHLANDERS 45 (TRIES: Parkinson, Gilbert, Renton, Paea, Dawai, Mikaele-Tu'u, Umaga-Jensen CONS: Gilbert 5/7 )
PASIFIKA (1-15): Ezekiel Lindnemuth, Samiuela Moli, Suetena Asomua, Michael Curry, Samuel Slade, Miracle Faiilagi, Alamanda Motuga, Solomone Funaki (c), Ereatara Enari, Lincoln McClutchie, Neria Fomai, Danny Toala, Levi Aumua, Timoci Tavatavanawai, William Havili
RESERVES: Luteru Tolai, Abraham Pole, Joe 'Apikotoa, Mike McKee, Jonah Mau'u Manu Paea, D'Angelo Leuila, Fine Inisi
HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Leni Apisai, Jermaine Ainsley, Pari Pari Parkinson, Will Tucker, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon (c), Hugh Renton, Aaron Smith, Mitch Hunt, Jonah Lowe, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Feluli Paea, Mosese Dawai, Sam Gilbert
RESERVES: Andrew Makalio, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Max Hicks, Shannon Frizell, Folau Fakatava, Cam Millar, Marino Mikaele Tu'u
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw