Gatland saves Highlanders from defeat

By Micah Thompson

Highlanders proudly beat the Chiefs 28-27 in the world’s first Super Rugby Aotearoa match on Friday night.

A late decision by head coach Aaron Mauger put Bryan Gatland in the starting line-up, covering for an injured Josh Ioane.

Gatland, who was the Highlanders’ knight in shining armour, scored a late drop goal that would put them on top and secure the victory. The game-winning drop goal would have been, without a doubt, both a proud and heartbreaking moment for opposing head coach and father of the saviour, Warren Gatland. 

Although they had the win, Highlanders also led the game in penalties, with referee Paul Williams blowing the whistle 30 times - 17 against the Highlanders and 13 against the Chiefs. This was based on the new enforcement rule officials are required to show in this new setup. The Highlanders also received two yellow cards, which put Vilimoni Koroi and Jona Nareki in the sin bin.

The Chiefs took a risk in starting Aaron Cruden on the bench. However, Cruden still managed to utilise his skills off the bench, which led to a try from midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown.

McKenzie was unable to make the conversion dragging too far wide but he managed to come right back with a successful drop goal to put the Chiefs up 27-25. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep them ahead of the game.

This game kicked off the season with a bang and definitely has the rugby-starved nation rearing for more.