The Highlanders claimed a last-gasp 17-10 victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Super Rugby on Saturday.
A moment of individual brilliance from Malakai Fekitoa separated the sides on a wet, slippery afternoon in Pretoria.
A thunderstorm just before the game and constant rain throughout made the conditions conducive to a tight game with lots of tactical kicking.
The win takes the Highlanders to within two points of the Hurricanes in the New Zealand Conference.
Meanwhile, the Bulls will at least be happy they were able to produce a much-improved performance from last week’s demolition at the hands of the Crusaders.
Due to the inclement weather, the game started with a battle of tactical kicking between the sides.
Tian Schoeman gave the home side an early 3-0 lead from the tee. This came after good patient build-up from the Bulls taking the ball through 10 phases before winning the penalty.
Richard Buckman’s chip was chased down by Matt Faddes who did well to retrieve the ball with his left-hand before cruising under the poles. Replacement fly-half Fletcher Smith converted to give the Highlanders a 7-0 lead. Smith extended the lead to 10-3 with a penalty before Banks returned to the field of play.
Burger Odendaal’s clever grubber kick behind the Highlanders defence bamboozled Matt Faddes and Warrick Gelant pounced to dot down. Schoeman added the extras to level the score at 10-10.
The game then turned in the 63rd minute when Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo was given a red card by referee Jaco Van Heerden for a shoulder charge into the face of Odendaal.
The Bulls began to exert immense pressure on the away side and had a couple of five-metre lineouts as well as a five-metre scrum but failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage and the Highlanders somehow managed to escape. Perhaps the home side should have taken the points when they were on offer.
The Bulls thought they had scored when Pierre Schoeman bashed over in the 72nd minute after a good move but after the referee sent it upstairs, the TMO confirmed a shoulder charge from RG Snyman that saw the lock red-carded and the try disallowed. Both sides were now playing with fourteen men.
Fekitoa then produced a moment of brilliance to separate the sides. He cut inside from the left wing and beat five players before coasting in under the posts. Marty Banks converted to give the Highlanders a 17-10 victory.
BULLS – 10
Tries: Warrick Gelant (46)
Penalties: Tiaan Schoeman (4)
Cons: Tiaan Schoeman (47)
HIGHLANDERS – 17
Tries: Matt Faddes (17),Malakai Fekitoa (75)
Penalties: Fletcher Smith (22)
Cons: Fletcher Smith (17),Marty Banks (76)
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Coenraad van Vuuren, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Nick de Jager, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Jan Serfontein
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden
Date: Saturday, May 13
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Johan Greeff