The Highlanders have taken their chances ruthlessly to dethrone the New South Wales Waratahs with a 35-17 victory to set up the first all-New Zealand Super Rugby final since 2006.
Tries from Aaron Smith and Richard Buckman in the first half combined
with a Waisake Naholo effort, a penalty try and a late Patrick Osborne
score after the break sent the Highlanders to Wellington to face the
Hurricanes next Saturday.
The reigning champion Waratahs had a
first half try from Rob Horne and 12 points from the boot of fly half
Bernard Foley but were error-prone where the Highlanders were clinical
in front of 32,632 at the Sydney Football Stadium.
"We know how hard it is to play against the Waratahs over here," Highlanders full-back Ben Smith said in a pitchside interview.
"I think we got it right but we have another big challenge next week."
Earlier, the Hurricanes looked every inch champions-elect as they beat the Brumbies 29-9 in another trans-Tasman semi-final to take their place in their first title-decider since 2006.
ensured whoever won in Sydney would have to hit the road for the final
but it rarely looked like being the Waratahs, who spent most of the
match trapped inside their own half.
Horne's 11th minute try from Foley's cross-kick was a rare moment of
class from the Waratahs in the first half but it failed to settle their
The Highlanders were back in front eight minutes later
when scrum half Smith intercepted Wycliff Palu's pass off the back of a
defensive scrum and touched down.
Two Foley penalties put the home
side 11-8 up but the Highlanders struck back again after 33 minutes
when Buckman ran through a succession of tacklers to score.
Foley penalty got the Waratahs to within a point at 15-14 at the break
and his fourth 11 minutes after the break put them in front.
It all completely fell apart for the reigning champions over the next 10 minutes.
Naholo brilliantly touched down just inside the dead ball line from his
own chip for his 12th try of the season and two minutes later the
Highlanders were awarded a penalty try, which Lima Sopoaga converted to
give the visitors a 27-17 lead.
Potgieter also got 10 minutes in the sin-bin during which time the
Waratahs failed to get out of their own half but little changed when
they were back to 15 men and Osborne crossed from Sopoaga's cross-kick
to seal the win two minutes from time.