Super Rugby: Highlanders beat Sharks 25-22 to end losing streak
Last Updated: 04/05/13 3:12pm
Colin Slade bagged 15 points as the Highlanders clung on to beat the Sharks 25-22 and register their first Super Rugby win of the campaign.
Shaun Treeby and Aaron Smith also notched touchdowns in the success, with Meyer Bosman (two) and Lwazi Mvovo scoring tries for the Sharks in their bonus-point defeat.
The Highlanders had to hang on at the death, with Brad Thorn sin-binned for persistent infringement, but saw out their first win in nine to move to within a point of the Southern Kings at the foot of the table.
Slade's try in the 51st minute and his two conversions and two penalties helped clinch the Dunedin-based Highlanders' first win of the season after eight losses.
A match which contained an abundance of scrappy play, errors and tactical misjudgments from both teams also included a handful of brilliant tries and a thrilling finish.
Slade's try was the last scoring play by the Highlanders, giving them a 25-15 lead with 25 minutes left.
When center Bosman scored his second try of the night for the Sharks, slashing the lead to 25-22, the Highlanders' winless run to the season looked liked it might be extended.
They defended with outstanding commitment throughout the last 20 minutes of the match, mostly situated on their own line and finally with only 14 men as the 38-year-old Thorn, in his 100th Super Rugby appearance, watched on from the sideline.
The Sharks attacked relentlessly in the last 10 minutes, often carrying the ball for more than 20 phases within 10 meters of the line.
The Highlanders repelled one such attack in the 78th minute, finally forcing a turnover on the 25th phase but managing only to clear the ball to touch.
Then late in stoppage time, Highlanders winger Hosea Gear made a crunching tackle to force a turnover and allow his team, buckling under pressure but unbowed, to win possession and see out the game, sparking jubilation among the home support.