DUNEDIN: Waikato Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie kicked a 45-metre penalty in extra time to secure a dramatic 26-23 victory at the Otago Highlanders in the first ever ‘golden point’ win in Super Rugby Aotearoa at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
McKenzie had missed a similar kick after the hooter in ordinary time on a poor night off the tee for both sides but came up trumps as the Chiefs moved to 12 points from five games, two behind the Auckland Blues in the second semi-final spot.
The Chiefs scored two tries through wing Etene Nanai-Seturo and prop Angus Ta'avao, with their other 16 points coming from the boot of McKenzie.
The home side were behind for most of the match but rallied late to draw level, and scored their tries through flank James Lentjes, scrum-half Aaron Smith and replacement flyhalf Josh Ioane.
The Chiefs led 10-5 at halftime after a scrappy first 40 minutes that saw a slew of penalties and opportunities missed.
Nanai-Seturo crossed for an early try by the visitors, acrobatically diving into the corner having set up by scrum-half Brad Weber.
The Highlanders hit back almost immediately through Lentjes after a clever bit of play as he dummied to pass out of the back of a maul, tricking five Chiefs defenders into thinking he was going to the right before scooting round the left to dot down.
They drew level early in the second half with a second try from co-captain Aaron Smith as he benefitted from loose forward Shannon Frizell’s excellent line break.
The Chiefs continued to look the more dangerous in attack and after landing two penalties following incessant pressure, they grabbed a second try after a fine angled run from Ta'avao saw him crash over as they extended the lead to 10 points.
The Highlanders found some momentum in the closing stages though and an excellent maul towards the Chiefs line eventually saw the backline released and Ioane crossed to score next to the posts.
He then levelled the score with a penalty with three minutes remaining, before McKenzie missed a drop-goal attempt and a penalty from the halfway line.
If the teams are level after 80 minutes they play an extra 10, with the first side to score winning the game, dubbed the 'golden point', and McKenzie made history by landing his penalty midway through the extra period.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)