REUTERS: All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored a 76th minute try as the Otago Highlanders beat the Waikato Chiefs 30-27, refusing to roll over despite being reduced to 14 men in the opening game of Super Rugby in Hamilton on Friday.
The Highlanders played with a man short for the final 15 minutes with replacement centre Sio Tomkinson sent off for a dangerous head high tackle on Brodie Retallick.
Tomkinson appeared to be unlucky as Retallick ducked into the tackle, which referee Glen Jackson ruled was also principally a shoulder charge after several television replays.
Lock Pari Pari Parkinson and replacement flanker Shannon Frizell also scored tries for the Highlanders, who never let the Chiefs get too far ahead with the unerring boot of flyhalf Josh Ioane adding 15 points.
Winger Etene Nanai-Seturo scored two tries for the Chiefs, who controlled much of the game only to be undone by the Highlanders' replacements bench adding some much-needed impetus for the final quarter.
Nanai-Seturo crossed once in each half for the home side, while Canadian international number eight Tyler Ardron and tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao also scored tries.
Scrumhalf Brad Weber slotted two conversions and Stephen Donald added a penalty.
The Chiefs had looked the most dangerous for the entire game, with All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown's ability to identify and exploit space evident.
Lienert-Brown set up two of the Chiefs' first half tries with the inside centre setting free winger Bailyn Sullivan, whose run and chip kick ahead set up Ta'avao's try.
He also gave hooker Nathan Harris a superb pass that allowed Nanai-Seturo the narrowest of margins on the touchline which he tip-toed down to give the home side a 19-7 lead just before half-time.
Ioane, who had slotted his first penalty before the break added a second just afterwards to narrow the gap to six points, before Nanai-Seturo grabbed his second try following a clever cross-kick from flyhalf Orbyn Leger.
The Highlanders' bench then proved the difference with Frizell proving a real handful with his ability to break tackles and get passes away in contact.
The 35-year-old Donald, who was only awarded a contract on Monday to replace the injured Tiaan Falcon, gave the Chiefs a 27-23 lead after Tomkinson was sent off before the Highlanders controlled the rest of the game.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)