Oliver's army storm Capital
Friday, April 22, 2005 allblacks.com allblacks.com
Already touted by many as a team defying the odds, the 2005 Highlanders are clearly a side that has learnt how to win. The impressive power of front-rowers Carl Hayman, Captain Anton Oliver and Carl Hoeft proved only a supporting act as their new-found willingness to send the ball wide took centre stage.
Conversely, a lack of control and discipline cost the Hurricanes momentum at crucial moments throughout the match.
The very first chance was painted Highland colours - Tana Umaga the unlikely culprit as the Hurricanes surrendered the ball in the opening minute, and centre Anthony Tuitavake charged the line. From sideline chalk to sideline chalk, the visitors sustained the pressure over four broad phases, long enough for winger Matt Saunders to cross for the first try. Fullback Ben Blair’s conversion extended the lead 7-0 in the 4th minute.
Several deft touches from halfback Piri Weepu gained badly-needed field position for Hurricanes No 10 Jimmy Gopperth to put his side on the board: a penalty 25m in front.
7-3 Highlanders... not for long. Outstanding openside Josh Blackie gave his opposite Ben Herring a friendly Friday fend-off to score the visitors second. A try that (once again) stretched the defence from one side of the field to the other.
The homeside went hunting for gaps and powerful winger Lome Fa'atau and No 8 Rodney So'oialo found plenty... the latter treating Blair to his impersonation of a runaway train as he busted 40m upfield, igniting an attack that ended only when No 11 Ma'a Nonu was bundled into touch inches away from the left-hand corner flag.
Try-scorer Saunders saved the Highlanders next, covering a deep Weepu kick - after Nonu put in one of the King-hits of the ‘05 season on Blair, and the fullback was nowhere in sight.
35th minute: Shannon Paku showed Highlanders prop Hayman and lock Tom Donnelly why he’s a fullback and they’re toiling in the boiler room - beating the pair and another half dozen in a brilliant counter-attack. The try was on as Paku leaned through two tacklers to find Umaga, but No 6 Jerry Collins couldn’t hold the next pass.
After a Tuitavake high-shot on Fa’atau, the Hurricanes instead settled for Gopperth’s second penalty.
Halftime score: 14-6 Highlanders
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