Highlanders taste success
An outstanding second-half performance saw the Highlanders clinch their first victory in 2013 with a 25-22 win over the Sharks.
Tries from Shaun Treeby, Aaron Smith and Colin Slade set the hosts on course for their first win in 2013 in Brad Thorn's 100th Super Rugby game.
An exhibition with plenty of spectacular tries, the Highlanders scrapped their way back from a disappointing performance in the opening 40 minutes to take control in the second half.
JP Pietersen's deliberate knock-on saw him sent to the sin-bin after just six minutes, the Highlanders opting for the scrum but unable to create the opening score.
Slade hit the post with a penalty before Treeby grabbed the game's first try - a clever move seeing Slade grubber through behind the defensive line for the centre to pounce.
Meyer Bosman hit back for the Sharks after good work from Francois Steyn to suck in defenders, the South African side's powerful pack laying the platform with an effective rolling maul.
Played with real intensity but also with plenty of handling errors, the game stuttered along in the middle of the first half until Lambie added a penalty to put the Sharks ahead, with the Highlanders warned for persistently infringing in the mauls and at the breakdown.
The Sharks then added an outstanding score - Lambie chipping over the top following a lineout with Viljoen collecting and passing inside to the flying Lwazi Mvovo.
Slade then missed his third penalty, having hit the post with his first two attempts, the Sharks leading 15-7 at the interval.
The hosts hit back immediately after the break, Aaron Smith darting over from a quick tap whilst the Sharks regrouped.
Slade's fourth penalty attempt minutes later put the Highlanders in front as the Sharks struggled to gather possession early on, under pressure once again after another sharp break from Smith around the fringes.
Having now recovered his radar, another penalty from Slade extended the Highlanders' gap to five points.
What followed was absolutely stunning - the Highlanders scoring a try of the season contender. Ben Smith's initial break was followed up with a wraparound combination with Aaron Smith, tighthead prop Chris King showing great timing and handling to release Slade for the line.
The Sharks though were not out of it - a hectic passage of play commanded by Mvovo carrying the ball back, the visitors offloading their way down the left hand side before Bosman grabbed his second for a thrilling score.
The prospect of finally picking up a win for the first time in nine attempts then placed the pressure on the Highlanders as time ticked away, who lost the influential TJ Ioane to injury.
Hearts continued to pound as the Sharks drove near the line with time running out, the Highlanders desperately clinging on in defence, the crowd erupting as Jason Emery turned the ball over.
There was no end to the drama however as the Sharks won a penalty and kicked to the corner, Thorn sent to the bin as the Highlanders set to defend another lineout.
A relentless number of penalties for the Sharks kept them pinned five metres out from the Highlanders line, but the ball went loose and victory was finally secured for the hosts for the first time in nine attempts.
<b>For Highlanders:</b><br><b>Tries:</b> Treeby, Smith, Slade<br><b>Cons:</b> Slade 2<br><b>Pens:<b> Slade 2<br><b>Yellow Card:</b> Thorn
<b>For Sharks:</b><br><b>Tries:</b> Bosman 2, Mvovo<br><b>Cons:</b> Lambie 2<br><b>Pen:</b> Lambie<b>Yellow Card:</b> Pietersen
<b>Highlanders:</b> 15 Ben Smith, 14 Phil Burleigh, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma'afu Fia, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Fumiaka Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Jason Emery.
<b>Sharks:</b> 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter Steph du Toit, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Wiehahn Herbst.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Craig Burden, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Piet Lindeque, 22 Odwa Ndungane / Derick Minnie.
<b>Referee:</b> Steve Walsh (Australia)<br><b>Assistant referees:</b> Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)<br><b>Television match official:</b> Keith Brown (New Zealand)