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Super Rugby: Highlanders score four in stunning 34-18 victory over Sharks
Highlanders ran in four tries as they pulled off a shock 34-18 victory over Super Rugby leaders Sharks at Kings Park on Friday.
Jamie Joseph's side clinched a surprising bonus point away from home as they capitalised on a litany of handling errors to overthrow the Sharks in Durban.
Richard Buckman, Aaron Smith and Shane Christie all raced over as the visitors forged a healthy 24-12 lead at the break, with four Tim Swiel penalties the lone reprieve for the hosts.
Swiel brought the Sharks within six after the break but when Malakai Fekitoa stormed over from inside his own half, the Highlanders were allowed to see out the closing stages in peace.
It was the visitors who drew first blood as Lima Sopoaga bisected the uprights after the Sharks were penalised at the scrum.
The Sharks' riposte came from the lineout as they broke into the Highlanders' 22 before Charl MacLeod grabbed a loose ball from the ruck and passed to Lwazi Mvovo who crossed the whitewash, only for the TMO to rule Paul Jordaan obstructed the defence.
Jake White's side got on the scoreboard after seven minutes as Swiel slotted home his first attempt of the night from the kicking tee and the Sharks fly-half kicked the hosts in front with a second three-pointer moments later.
Highlanders hit back with their first clear cut attack of the night as Buckman raced onto the end of chip through to touch down the opening try of the night.
Sopoaga added the conversion with help from the woodwork, only for Swiel to reduce the Highlanders' advantage to one point with his third successful penalty kick.
Once again, the Highlanders' response was brisk as second row Joe Wheeler drew close to the line, before scrum-half Smith pierced through the Sharks defence for the visitors' second try, which Sopoaga duly converted.
Flanker Christie added a third eight minutes before the break as the Highlanders drove the lineout maul over the whitewash and Sopoaga extended their lead to 15 with the extras.
As the half-time klaxon sounded, the Sharks won a penalty at the scrum which allowed Swiel to reduce their arrears to 12 at the interval.
Swiel resumed where he left off following the restart, chipping away at the Highlanders lead as he slipped a fifth penalty over the crossbar.
Poor discipline continued to cost the Highlanders as referee Jaco Peyper brandished a yellow card in the direction of Wheeler after an infringement at the lineout and with that penalty, Swiel brought the Sharks within six.
As tempers flared, Francois Steyn and Smith flirted with danger by entering into a brief fracas, but inconclusive video evidence spared them from joining Wheeler on the touchline.
The league leaders were unable to make their extra man count as Tendai Mtawarira broke through the defence before floating a pass to JP Pietersen who spilled possession back into the hands of Joseph's side.
When the Sharks were caught offside, Sopoaga quickly slotted home his second penalty of the match, before the Highlanders ensured the tie was put to bed.
Fekitoa collected the ball in his own half before making a slicing run and powering his way over to claim a bonus-point try for the Highlanders and Sopoaga rounded off a peerless kicking display by slotting the conversion to take his tally to 14 points.
The Highlanders' hopes of making the play-offs were given a shot in the arm as they moved up to fifth, while a Brumbies win over the Chiefs earlier in the day ensured the Sharks still retain their position at the summit.Super 15. Click here to bet.
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|17:10||Bulls vs Crusaders|
|Friday 3rd April|
|07:35||Hurricanes vs Stormers|
|09:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Reds|
|Saturday 4th April|
|07:35||Chiefs vs Blues|
|09:40||Brumbies vs Cheetahs|
|14:00||Sharks vs Crusaders|
|16:05||Lions vs Bulls|
|Friday 10th April|
|08:35||Blues vs Brumbies|
|Saturday 11th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Highlanders|
|10:40||Waratahs vs Stormers|
|12:45||Western Force vs Cheetahs|
|14:00||Bulls vs Reds|
|16:05||Lions vs Sharks|
|Friday 17th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Chiefs|
|Saturday 18th April|
|05:30||Hurricanes vs Waratahs|
|08:35||Highlanders vs Blues|
|10:40||Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels|
|12:45||Western Force vs Stormers|
|16:05||Sharks vs Bulls|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|Waratahs 28 - 13 Brumbies|
|Saturday 21st March|
|Sharks 12 - 11 Chiefs|
|Bulls 25 - 24 Western Force|
|Crusaders 57 - 14 Cheetahs|
|Friday 20th March|
|Melbourne Rebels 16 - 20 Lions|
|Highlanders 13 - 20 Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th March|
|Cheetahs 10 - 27 Sharks|
|Stormers 19 - 28 Chiefs|
|Reds 0 - 29 Brumbies|
|Highlanders 26 - 19 Waratahs|
|Crusaders 34 - 6 Lions|
|Friday 13th March|
|Western Force 17 - 21 Melbourne Rebels|
|Hurricanes 30 - 23 Blues|
|Saturday 7th March|
|Stormers 29 - 13 Sharks|
|Cheetahs 20 - 39 Bulls|
|Reds 5 - 23 Waratahs|
|Blues 10 - 13 Lions|
|Friday 6th March|
|Brumbies 27 - 15 Western Force|
|Chiefs 17 - 20 Highlanders|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com