Highlanders 33 - 34 Reds

Match info: Super Rugby at Forsyth Barr, Dunedin

Date: 29/03/2013 KO: 06:35

Home team/scorers Scores Away team/scorers

Highlanders

TriesDixon (18) Gear (60) Nonu (66)ConversionsSlade (20) Sopoaga (61, 67)PenaltiesSlade (9, 15, 40) Sopoaga (73)

33
vs
34

Reds

TriesHanson (5) Gill (24) Schatz (29) Genia (53)ConversionsCooper (6, 25, 30, 54)PenaltiesCooper (45, 70)

FT (ht: 16-21)

  • Last Updated: March 30 2013, 8:14 GMT

Quade Cooper kicked 14 points and produced plenty from his usual bag of tricks as the Reds achieved their first Super Rugby victory in Dunedin in a thrilling encounter with the Highlanders.

Quade Cooper: Kicked 14 points for the Reds
Quade Cooper: Kicked 14 points for the Reds

The Reds scored four tries to three and deserved to hold on in front of 12,000 people in a cliffhanger at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It was the Reds' fifth win from seven games while the hapless Highlanders only received a bonus point as consolation after their fifth consecutive loss.

The Highlanders had lost 19-7 to the Chiefs in Hamilton last week while the Reds had beaten the Bulls 23-18 in Brisbane.

Queensland last won in Dunedin against Otago in 1981 but the Reds made the best possible start to this match as hooker James Hanson stretched out to score after five minutes following a break by Cooper, who converted to make it 7-0.

Colin Slade kicked a straightforward penalty four minutes later but the Highlanders would have been concerned by the easy metres being made by the Reds, not least midfielder Ben Tuapai.

Slade kicked his second penalty and the the Highlanders then extended their lead to 13-7 with a try by the posts from No Elliot Dixon after 19 minutes.

Buxton Popoali'i beat two defenders in a mazy run and, from the ensuing penalty, Aaron Smith took a quick tap and Dixon barged over.

But the Reds regained the lead after 25 minutes when they drove from a five-metre lineout and flanker Liam Gill scored. Cooper converted and it was 14-13.

Highlanders captain Andrew Hore was sin-binned for slowing the ball down after 28 minutes and the Reds capitalised immediately when number eight Jake Schatz crashed over under the posts. Cooper converted and it was 21-13.

Centre Jason Emery made a fine run for the Highlanders which would have yielded a try but for a desperate tackle by tight-head prop James Slipper. But Slade kicked his third penalty on the stroke of half-time to make it 21-16.

The Reds deserved their lead. They had displayed more imagination and penetration and the Highlanders defence leaked three tries.

The second spell started with the Reds backs and forwards battering inside Highlanders territory as Cooper kicked a penalty to extend the advantage out to 24-16.

Coach Jamie Joseph introduced TJ Ioane and Ma'afu Fia in an effort to add some punch to the Highlanders forwards, who had been strangely out of sorts for much of the match.

Ma'a Nonu produced a piledriving tackle on Cooper which lifted the muted crowd.

But those voices were silenced 14 minutes into the half when halfback Will Genia scooted through to score unopposed from a five-metre scrum. Cooper converted and the Reds had a handsome 31-16 lead.

The Highlanders finally put it all together after 20 minutes when Ben Smith made the initial incision and Popoali'i beat two tackles before off-loading to Hosea Gear to score in the corner.

Lima Sopoaga converted splendidly and the Highlanders had renewed hope at 31-23.

The game really heated up 13 minutes from the end when Ma'a Nonu crashed over under the posts from a scrum move. Sopoaga converted and it was all on at 31-30.

But the Reds gained a little breathing space 10 minutes from the end when Cooper kicked a penalty from almost 40m to extend the lead out to 34-30.

But it became a one-point game again seven minutes from the end when Sopoaga kicked a 47m penalty as the crowd became increasingly animated.