Highlanders heap more misery on Crusaders

Cam Millar’s boot has kicked the Crusaders further towards the reality of missing the play offs with a 32-29 win over their old enemies.

Millar slotted six penalties to guide his side to an historic win over the flailing franchise.

The top of the table clash in Auckland was a hard act to follow, but the South Island sides showed they could put on equal entertainment in another thriller.

It’s taken 19 games since 2021 since the Highlanders have knocked off a fellow Kiwi franchise, but they showed serious fortitude to shut out the defending champions.

After their dire affair against the Force last weekend, the Highlanders more than made up for it with a pulsating match under the roof with their southern rivals.

Skipper Ethan de Groot to Sky Sport it was a hard fought win.

“Extremely proud, it was a hell of a shift, got to give it to the Crusaders, you can never take them too lightly.”

He said it was the heart they showed on defence which got them over the line.

“Got to put it down to those massive ‘D’ sets, the boys never gave up.”

Now with three wins on the trot, De Groot said they can’t afford to get complacent.

“It’s important we dont get to big for our boots, take each week as it comes and we’ll just keep doing what works well, that’s Highlander’s footy, we love it.”

Returning Crusaders skipper Codie Taylor said after a strong first half, they faded in the second.

“It was an arm wrestle, we let in a few points in the first half and against the Landers they get a lot of confidence from that at their home ground and it’s hard to claw your way back. we lost our way in the second, just another one.”

Millar put first points on the board through the boot before the Highlanders also crossed the chalk first through freakish circumstances.

A Crusaders offload falconed Sean Withy and bounced towards the Highlanders line, Tanielu Teleʻa pounced on the loose ball and streaked away to score the opening try.

Cam Millar was brilliant with the boot.

The Crusaders struck back shortly after as Noah Hotham broke the line, and from the ensuing breakdown his opposite Folau Fakatava was sent to the bin for slowing it down.

The Crusaders took immediate advantage, David Havili throwing a superb long ball to Sevu Reece who was never going to be stopped so close to the line.

They appeared to go back to back as Levi Aumua slipped a deft offload to Cullen Grace who dived over but replays showed he had grassed it on the touchline.

The blemish wouldn’t cost them much however, as Johnny McNicoll sliced though and linked with Hotham who flicked it out the back to Dallas McLeod.

It was a low pass which McLeod expertly knocked ahead with his foot and dived on the ball for his side’s second.

The Highlanders didn’t take long to respond, Fakatava making up for his earlier indiscretion as he broke from the base and found his halves partner Cam Millar looming on his outside.

It took 29 minutes until the first scrum was finally packed, testament to the sensational skills displayed by both sides.

Just before the break, Jamie Hannah was sent to the sideline for a no arms tackle but the Highlanders couldn’t cash in and the side’s went to the break at 26-14 to the hosts as Millar gave his side a handy buffer with four first half penalties.

Reece got his side back in the hunt early in the second spell, Chay Fihaki turning the defence inside out and linking seamlessly with the All Black winger.

The points dried up but the intensity did not waver one iota, with both sides desperately searching for the decisive blow.

Things reached boiling point with less than ten on the clock as the team’s came together for some jersey pulling and shoving, as the Highlanders were awarded a kaick-able penalty.

Millar slotted it to push his team ahead by seven with seven to play.

As the clock ticked to 75, the hosts were awarded a crucial penalty, which Millar duly converted, as Macca Springer scored a late consolation for the Crusaders, it would not be enough.


Highlanders 32 (Tele’a, Millar, tries, Millar, 6 pens, 2 cons)

Crusaders 29 (Reece 2, McLeod, Springer, tries, Fihaki, 1 pen, 3 cons,)

Timori Tavatavanawai on the charge.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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