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Super Rugby: The Highlanders hold on for crucial win over the Rebels
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The Highlanders revived their Super Rugby hopes with a hard-fought 33-30 victory over the Rebels.
It was only the third win of the season for Jamie Joseph's side, but it was enough to move them to within two points of second spot in the overall standings.
Shane Christie, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith all crossed for tries while Lima Sopoaga added 18 points with the boot.
However the Rebels put up a gallant fight and cut the deficit to just three points going into the final few minutes.
Jason Woodward led the way with 20 points, while Scott Fuglistaller and Alex Rokobaro also scored tries.
Fuglistaller had got the Rebels off to a flying start on seven minutes when the flanker was on hand to finish off Nic Stirzaker's break. Woodward converted only for the visitors to reply through a Sopoaga penalty.
The Highlanders fly-half was on target again in the 15th minute when he added the extras after Christie burrowed over the line.
Woodward levelled matters at 10-10 with a penalty of his own, but the Highlanders moved back in front when Aaron Smith celebrated his 50th cap with a superb try - the scrum-half scooting over after showing some good footwork.
Sopoaga added the conversion and then was on target with a penalty as the Highlanders opened up a 10-point lead.
Woodward hit back with a three-pointer of his own, though, to keep the Rebels within touching distance at the break.
And the Rebels were level again after the restart when Scott Higginbotham intercepted Smith's pass and then chipped ahead for Rokobaro to score a converted try.
Sopoaga moved the Highlanders back in front with his third penalty of the match before the decision to turn down two kicks at goal paid dividends. A concerted spell of pressure on the Rebels line resulted in Ben Smith going over in the corner. Sopoaga added the extras.
Again the Rebels refused to be brushed aside, with Woodward's boot again cutting the deficit. Sopoaga added a penalty of his own but Woodward's try and conversion with three minutes left set up a thrilling finale.Super 15. Click here to bet.