Highlanders break out from deep to beat Lions
The Otago Highlanders' scored three long-range tries for a 34-15 victory against the Lions at Otago Regional Stadium on Saturday, ending the South Africans' hopes of returning home unbeaten from their three-match road trip.
The Highlanders, who had led 10-3 at halftime, put the game beyond doubt with two tries within the space of three minutes shortly after the break to extend the gap to 21 points, causing the Lions players to lose their composure.
Malakai Fekitoa's try 11 minutes later, following a turnover and counter-attack from long-range, ensured their second victory of the season and set them up for their trip to Sydney next week against the New South Wales Waratahs.
With both sides defensive lines hard to break down, the home side's tries were all down to spotting and seizing their opportunities.
Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who slotted 14 points from four conversions, a penalty and a drop goal, saw a gap behind the rushing Lions defence and put through a grubber kick that sat up for winger Matt Faddes to score his first Super Rugby try.
Sopoaga converted the Faddes try to go with his early penalty to give the home side a 10-0 lead, which Elton Jantjes reduced with his first penalty to leave the match tight at halftime.
Shortly after the break, however, Ben Smith took a quick lineout throw to scrumhalf Aaron Smith, who ran 20 metres and drew the final defender before he passed to his captain to run another 40 to score.
Faddes then scored his second try when he stepped out of the defensive line to intercept a long pass and score from 60 metres out three minutes later.
Fekitoa, who had another superb game on defence that included a try-saving tackle, then scored after a sweeping counter-attack to break the Lions.
Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored a try with about 17 minutes remaining before replacement Ruan Ackermann grabbed a late consolation try in the 77th minute to stop the Highlanders from securing a bonus point.