Super Rugby Pacific: Highlanders survive for heartstopping victory over NSW Waratahs at Sydney

NSW Waratahs first-five Tane Edmed has watched a gamewinning penalty attempt drift wide right after the final siren, as the Highlanders held on for a nervewracking 23-21 Super Rugby Pacific victory at Sydney.

In a seesaw battle that saw one team, then the other seize momentum, the southerners survived to bring the Aussies back to earth, after they shocked defending champions Crusaders during last week's 'Super Round'.

Centre Taniela Tele'a provided the winning try from a Highlanders raid that started in their own half, with second-five Sam Gilbert slotting a conversion from near touch for the crucial two points.

Taniela Tele'a scores against Waratahs.
Taniela Tele'a scores against Waratahs. Photo credit: Getty Images

Although the Waratahs responded with a try of their own in a similar position, Edmed was also wayward with that conversion attempt, leaving him doubly frustrated at the final margin.

The Highlanders kicked an early penalty and then extended their advantage to double figures, when halfback Folau Fakatava scrambled a pass off the deck to fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, with first-five Rhys Patchell looming for the final transfer to score.

The home side struck back through centre Izaia Perese and the boot of Edmed put them ahead 16-13 at the break, with a penalty after the halftime siren.

After the restart, Highlanders Gilbert levelled the account with a penalty for offside and they had the lead, when AJ Faleafaga sparked an attack from his own half.

Flanker Sean Withy provided a vital carry and offload to Fakatava, before Tele'a somehow gathered a long pass behind him from Gilbert and brushed off two tackles to score. 

Just as the visitors seemed to have put their noses in front, Waratahs fullback Max Jorgenson struck back, but Edmed left his sideline conversion right of the posts.  

With time running out, Fakatava gave the Waratahs a lifeline, when he kicked too deep and the ball bounced dead, gifting them a scrumfeed near halfway.

From the ensuing attack, the Highlanders were penalised in their own half and Edmed had an angled 40-metre kick for victory after the final siren.

Wide right.

"She was a bit of nailbiter," admitted Highlanders captain Ethan de Groot. "We definitely didn't make it easy for ourselves, but a win's a win and we're happy to put one over a qualify side like the Waratahs.

"We knew they would be up from their good win last week and their first home game. We knew they had big ballcarriers and we had to be clinical in those areas and chop them down."

The southern men have now won two of their opening three games of the new season and will return home to host ACT Brumbies at Dunedin next Saturday.

Highlanders 23 (Patchell, Tele'a tries; Gilbert 2 conversions & 3 penalties) NSW Waratahs 21 (Perese, Jorgenson tries; Edmed conversion & 3 penalties) 

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