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Highlanders stun Chiefs
Injuries prove costly for home side
The Chiefs were left to rue a second-half collapse as they slipped to a 23-19 defeat to the Highlanders.
The home side had impressed in the first half - with the likes of Hika Elliot, Fritz Lee, Brendon Leonard, Richard Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams to the fore.
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden, making his debut after joining from the Hurricanes, had also impressed as he pulled the strings for the Chiefs.
However having opened up a 10-point lead after 50 minutes - through 14 points from Cruden and a try from Lelia Masaga - the Chiefs were left rocking as the Highlanders hit back.
The Chiefs' cause was not helped by injuries to Ben Afeaki, Masaga and Leonard. Prop Afeaki suffered a suspected broken right forearm, Masaga twisted his knee, while No.9 Leonard damaged his left hamstring.
And the Highlanders took full advantage as Aaron Smith and Phil Burleigh both crossed in the final 20 minutes, while Super Rugby debutant Chris Noakes added 13 points.
Noakes had kicked two penalties to one from Cruden in the opening exchanges before Masaga gave the Chiefs a lead they would never lose.
A mistake from All Blacks scrum-half Jimmy Cowan gave the Chiefs the chance to counter - and the Waikato-based franchise never need a second invitation as quick hands and recycling created the gap for Masaga to power over. Cruden coverted.
Noakes landed another three-pointer to cut the deficit, only for Cruden to respond with two penalties of his own before the break - with both sides struggling to adapt to the refereeing of the breakdown.
A fifth successful shot at goal from Cruden saw the Chiefs move 19-9 up with a half-hour left to play.
The loss of Leonard to a nasty hamstring injury, though, hit the hosts hard - and the Highlanders took full advantage.
A superb running-line and off-load from Tamati Ellison was finished off brilliantly by Smith to give the visitors hope, with Noakes converting to cut the deficit to three.
And worse was to follow for the Chiefs as Cruden's clearance was charged down by Jason Rutledge, with Burleigh finishing off. Noakes converted.
The Chiefs spurned two kickable efforts at goal to go for broke and they would regret the decision as they could not breach the defence.
And they were dealt a further blow as prop Toby Smith hobbled off with a calf injury, leaving the game to finish with uncontested scrums.Super 15. Click here to bet.
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:30||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:00||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com