Wartas defeats Highlanders, Dunedin, Michael Hooper, Aaron Smith

With a 32-20 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin, the Waratas continued their stunning transition in 2022.

Less than a month after overcoming the biggest disaster of the season with a win over the Crusaders in Sydney, the Waratahs added another impressive New Zealand scalp to this year’s revival after failing to win a game in 2021.

With a 12-point lead courtesy of Will Harris, Mark Navakanitawas and Michael Hooper, the Waratah lost points before responding to three drawn attempts on Sunday afternoon.

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While this was all a positive sign for the New South Wales-based outfit, things quickly shifted when the Highlanders took advantage of the 14-man side when Paddy Ryan was hit with a yellow card for a dangerous cleanout.

With 25 minutes left on the fast clock in Ryan’s 10-minute time off the field, Waratah’s lead narrowed to just four points.

But a mounting penalty from the home side gave Waratah a field shot and an easy shot in front of the sticks.

After the final siren sounded, the Highlanders tried to comfort Liam Coombs-Fabling late.

This is Waratah’s first win in Dunedin since 2008.

“It was a tough competition, quite an enjoyable game. We got off to a really good start. They tried first in the game, but we got the momentum back. Stan told Sport.

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“Our bench was great … it was a great team effort. We talked strongly about finishing games because we didn’t have the last few games.”

Highlanders captain Aaron Smith says his team’s poor discipline has ultimately paid off.

“We lacked a bit of intensity … our discipline got on top of us again. We were pretty passive in defense on the big patches which was pretty disappointing.”

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