Live updates: Super Rugby Pacific - Highlanders v Western Force at Invercargill's Rugby Park

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Highlanders 43 Force 35

Highlanders - Lowe 2, Gilbert, Withy, Renton & Hunt tries; Gilbert 5 conversions & penalty

Force - Kibirige, Hegarty, Amone, Callan & Horton tries; Hegarty 2 penalties & conversion, Keunzle conversion

Second half

40th minute - TRY to Amone

Force win a penalty five metres out and prepare to tap. Amone kicks the ball towards the spot and Highlanders claim he's taken it, but Mabey disagrees.

When he finally does take the tap, Amone simply stretches out to score, HIG 43-30

TRY to Callan

Force claim the kickoff and go back onto attack, with the flanker grabbing a second consolation try. Highlanders get their first win of the season.

39th minute - Force reclaim the kickoff and enter Highlanders 22.

37th minute - TRY to Renton

Highlanders shift left, where Gilbert snatches a one-handed pass behind him from Renton, who stays in support and takes the inpass to score. Gilbert converts, HIG 43-25

36th minute - Force steal a lineout and win a clearing penalty for a high tackle.

Highlanders build phases in midfield...

35th minute - Force lose the ball behind their 22 and Highlanders go on attack. Umaga-Jensen kicks ahead and Stewart clears from his goal-line.

34th minute - Renton steals the ball at the breakdowna and Hunt breaks downfield, but his pass goes behind Lowe and into touch.

33rd minute - Force kickoff doesn't go 10 metres, but they get the ball back and enter Highlanders half.

31st minute - TRY to Lowe

Withy goes close to scoring and Hunt throws a long pass to his wing, who barely forces the ball, before the cover defences converges on him in the corner. Gilbert brings the sideline conversion back between the posts, HIG 36-25

30th minute - Highlanders steal a lineout win and Marshall hacks downfield for a 50-22. They win the attacking lineout and surge towards the tryline.

29th minute - Poolman returns from his yellow card.

28th minute - Gilbert fields a high kick on halfway and Highlanders have the ball in hand again.

27th minute - Big scrum from the Highlanders, but they're penalised, when Fakatava is through too quickly on his opposite.

26th minute - Highlanders till on attack, Fakatava surges, but Beckhuis has the ball knocked loose with the line in sight.

25th minute - Tiatia fields the ball on his own goal-line and beats a couple of tackles, before Keunzle clears.

24th minute - Force win the defensive lineout and milk a clearing penalty.

23rd minute - Fakatava replaces Smith at halfback for the Highlanders.

Force drop the ball in midfield and Hunt kicks to the corner, finding touch just a metre from the flag.

21st minute - TRY to Withy

From the scrum, Smith shifts right. Gilbert is dragged down shot, but Smith is quick to the ruck and finds Withy running an angle to score.

Gilbert converts, HIG 29-25

20th minute - Scrum penalty to the Highlanders, but they want another...

19th minute - Highlanders win the lineout, but can't make any ground in the maul. Hunt kicks through and it runs dead for a goal-line dropout.

Replays show there's a late tackle from the Force, so Mabey changes his call to a penalty and Highlanders call for a scrum.

18th minute - Highlanders win an untidy lineout and the ball is hacked to the goal-line, where the Force force for a dropout.

Gilbert is tipped headfirst in a tackle and Mabey blasts twice on the whistle. Poolman is yellow-carded for the dangerous tackle and Hunt kicks to the corner.

16th minute - Another strong run from Umaga-Jensen puts the Highlanders on the frontfoot, but Renton drops the ball in a tackle.

15th minute - Gilbert kicks deep into the Force in-goal, but the ball stops just short of the deadball for a Force dropout.

14th minute - Highlanders win a lineout in Force half and Umaga-Jensen runs a strong line up the middle. They knock on.

12th minute - TRY to Hegarty

From the lineout maul, Simpson releases right, where Anstee carries towards the posts and Hegarty is next cab off the rank. Keunzle this time converts, FOR 25-22

11th minute - Force lineout inside Highlanders 22, they win it and maul towards the tryline.

10th minute - The lights come on in Invercargill.

Seventh minute - TRY to Gilbert

Hunt kicks to the corner for an attacking lineout. Renton charges towards the posts, Highlanders shift left and Gilbert gets the try.

Gilbert converts, HIG 22-18

Sixth minute - Highlanders win a lineout near Force 22 and charge up centrefield. They get a penalty, Smith taps, but he's called back too.

Fourth minute - TRY to Horton

Force win the lineout and maul towards the tryline. Horton detaches and plunges over.

Hegarty slices his conversion right, FOR 18-15

Third minute - Force in Highlanders 22, keeping the ball in hand. They get a penalty and Simpson takes a quick tap to score, but Mabey brings him back to the mark.

Second minute - Hegarty surges into Highlanders half. Quick hands create space down the right touchline.

First minute - From the kickoff, Force take a return kick and build some phases near halfway.


40th minute - TRY to Hunt

As the siren sounds, Highlanders win the lineout and maul towards the tryline. De Groot is just short, but Hunt finds some space to twist through and score.

Gilbert hits the upright with his conversion, but his team have the lead into the break, HIG 15-13

39th minute - Highlanders have a penalty for offside in the Force half and Gilbert kicks to the corner. Hunt returns to the park after his yellow card is served.

36th minute - TRY to Kibirige

From a ruck metres out, Simpson puts a deft kick into the goal area, and his winger chases it for a nice bounce and try. Hegarty converts, FOR 13-10

35th minute - Force building phases midfield in Highlanders territory, Harmon comes away with the ball, but is penalised. Force kick to the corner.

33rd minute - Aaron Smith dashes into the Force 22, but the defence is over the ruck for a penalty.

29th minute - Force down the left touchline, but as Kuenzle looks inside to Pulu, Hunt sticks out a hand and deliberately knocks on. He's yellow carded.

27th minute - Highlanders into Force 22 and win a penalty at the breakdown. Gilbert will shoot for goal... and slots it, HIG 10-6

24th minute - Highlanders surge into Force half and Umaga-Jensen makes a halfbreak.

19th minute - Makalio fails his HIA and is gone for the game. Highlanders throw to a lineout near the Force 22.

17th minute - Makalio is down and dazed after hitting his head in a tackle. Some concern over his condition, but he walks off for an HIA, replaced by Marshall.

15th minute - TRY to Lowe

Strong run from Umaga-Jensen into the 22 and after a couple more phases, Lowe plunges over to put Highlanders on the board. Gilbert convverts, HIG 7-6

12th minute - Force break down the left touchline and into the 22. They win a penalty for a high tackle and Force point to the posts.

Hegarty slots the penalty, FOR 6-0

11th minute - Good continuity for Highlanders, but the last pass is ruled forward, so Force scrum in their own half.

Sixth minute - Ainsley is penalised and Hegarty slots the penalty to give the Force the early lead, FOR 3-0

Third minute - First scrum of the game is a mess and has to reset, with Force put-in in their own half.

First minute - Angus Mabey will referee the game, Mitch Hunt to kick off for Highlanders.

3:34pm - Late change for the Highlanders, with Shannon Frizell out and Sean Withy taking his place at No.6.


Kia ora, good afternoon and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Super Rugby Pacific clash between the Highlanders and Western Force at Invercargill's Rugby Park.

The southerners have made a horror start to the 2023 season, stumbling through a tough draw that pitted them against the Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs first up. After record losses to the first two, they were more competitive against the unbeaten competition frontrunners last week.

The Force should provide them with a winnable contest on home turf, with All Blacks Aaron Smith, Ethan de Groot, Shannon Frizell and Folau Takatava all on deck.

The visitors have beaten Melbourne Rebels and Moana Pasifika to sit midtable, but both those wins have come at home in Perth.  

Highlanders: 1-Ethan de Groot, 2-Andrew Makalio, 3-Jermaine Ainsley, 4-Fabian Holland, 5-Josh Bekhuis, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Hugh Renton, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jonah Lowe, 12-Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 13-Josh Timu, 14-Martin Bogado, 15-Sam Gilbert

Reserves: 16-Rhys Marshall, 17-Ayden Johnstone, 18-PJ Sheck, 19-Max Hicks, 20-James Lentjes, 21-Folau Fakatava, 22-Cameron Millar, 23-Connor Garden-Bachop

Force: 1-Tom Robertson, 2-Folau Fakatava, 3-Santiago Medrano, 4-Jeremy Williams, 5-Ryan McCauley, 6-Michael Wells, 7-Ollie Callan, 8-Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 9-Gareth Simpson, 10-Bryce Hegarty, 11-Toni Pulu, 12-Hamish Stewart, 13-Bayley Kuenzle, 14-Zach Kibirige, 15-Chase Tiatia

Reserves: 16-Tom Horton, 17-Angus Wagner, 18-Siosifa Amone, 19-Felix Kalapu, 20-Tim Anstee, 21-Issak Fines-Lelewasa, 22-George Poolman, 23-Manasa Mataele


Highlanders halfback Smith reveals what Joseph would bring as All Blacks coach

Reece Labuschagne

Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith expects All Blacks coaching hopeful Jamie Joseph would bring the same level of intensity to the job that proved successful as a Super Rugby coach.

Joseph, 53, is one of two leading candidates for the post-World Cup gig, alongside frontrunner and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.

The former All Blacks flanker coached the Highlanders to their only Super Rugby title in 2015 and led the southerners to three straight playoff appearances.

Joseph took over from Eddie Jones as Japan's coach in 2016 and inspired the 'Brave Blossoms' to a historic fifth-placed finish at the 2019 World Cup, with victories over Ireland and Scotland.

Righthand man and assistant Tony Brown is expected to follow Joseph as part of his backroom staff, should he be appointed All Blacks coach.

Smith played alongside Brown in his debut Super Rugby season and was coached by his former teammate in 2021.

He believes the pair would strike a balance between a tough and exciting brand of rugby, as they have wherever else they've coached.

"I think they'd just bring the same that they do to every team they're with," said Smith. "Jamie's a very strong leader and Browny is very innovative.

"They have high expectations of the teams that they put together. They pick certain players to play a type of rugby and they would do the same for any role they've been picked for.

Jamie Joseph oversees a Highlanders scrum
Jamie Joseph oversees a Highlanders scrum. Photo credit: Photosport

"They're very innovative in how they look at the game. Jamie is very tough on getting his forwards to a place and sets up an environment for that.

"Browny is famous for his innovation on attack and everyone being on the same page."

For now, Smith's focus is firmly on helping the bottom-of-the-table Highlanders find their first win of the Super Rugby Pacific season. After three straight losses in as many rounds, they host in-form Australian team Western Force on Sunday.

The Force have won two of three opening games, but have yet to play on the road, with their trip to Invercargill their first of the season.

Despite their winless form, Smith believes the defeats against the competition's best can lay the platform for a turnaround in fortune for the Highlanders.

"We've played three really good teams and we've learned lessons the hard way, which has been quite hard," he said.

"In the first game, we didn't respect the ball and the Blues pounced on all those mistakes. We played a very good Crusaders team, who we played really well against for 25 minutes, but they were then able to get ascendancy and put us away.

"We're learning the hard way, but one positive from the Chiefs game was the scoreline at halftime was tight, which was a big focus for us. Our big focus is trying to stack moments and trust our game, and we've had three weeks of those lessons and that pain from that.

"We're under no illusion we're bottom of the table and it's a place we don't want to be, but that's our current reality, that's the situation we're in. Those three games are gone as well, so we're really excited about what the next month holds for us and looking to climb the table, going one game at a time."

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