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Highlanders clinch play-off spot

Published 30/05/2015

Ben Smith scored the bonus-point try
Ben Smith scored the bonus-point try

The Highlanders secured a place in the Super Rugby play-offs with a convincing 36-9 bonus-point win over the Chiefs.

The home side held an eight-point lead at half-time but burst out after the interval scoring 25 points with Patrick Osborne, Waisake Naholo, Richard Buckman and Ben Smith scoring the tries.

Lima Sopoaga added 16 points with the boot for the Highlanders with three Damian McKenzie penalties the only response from the Chiefs.

Two penalties in three minutes from Sopoaga edged the Highlanders ahead but McKenzie reduced the arrears before Osborne went over.

The wing gathered the ball after a sustained spell of pressure and beat a host of defenders to crash across the line. The conversion was missed and the Chiefs thought they had a try just before the break.

Marty McKenzie kicked ahead for brother Damian to beat the Highlanders' defence but the TMO ruled the ball was not grounded.

It took just three second-half minutes for the lead to be extended as Naholo burst through a tackle and used his pace to get to the line with Sopoaga making no mistake from the tee.

Two further McKenzie penalties kept the Chiefs in touch but another two from Sopoaga reopened the gap.

The Highlanders were now laying siege to the Chiefs' 22 and it was only a matter of time before Buckman scored their third try.

The ball was eventually sent left and Buckman touched down in the corner with a successful conversion making it 31-9.

And Smith secured the bonus-point, powering over from close-range to complete a resounding victory.

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