Highlanders hang tough to beat the Bulls

The Highlanders score late in the second half against the Reds.
The Highlanders score late in the second half against the Reds.
Nasi Manu of the Highlanders is tackled against the Hurricanes.
Nasi Manu of the Highlanders is tackled against the Hurricanes.
Reds' Saia Faingaa runs into the tackle of James Haskell.
Reds' Saia Faingaa runs into the tackle of James Haskell.
James Haskell carries the ball up strongly for the Highlanders against the Reds.
James Haskell carries the ball up strongly for the Highlanders against the Reds.
Jamie Mackintosh passes to support out wide against the Reds.
Jamie Mackintosh passes to support out wide against the Reds.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders lining up a tackle on Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders lining up a tackle on Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes.
Hosea Gear of the Highlanders is tackled by Tim Bateman and Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes.
Hosea Gear of the Highlanders is tackled by Tim Bateman and Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes.
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes is not happy at Adam Thomson of the Highlanders being allowed his try.
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes is not happy at Adam Thomson of the Highlanders being allowed his try.
Kieran Read rubs Jarrad Hoeata's face in the dirt.
Kieran Read rubs Jarrad Hoeata's face in the dirt.
Wyatt Crockett scores for the Crusdaders.
Wyatt Crockett scores for the Crusdaders.
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
George Whitelock of the Crusaders gets a yellow card.
George Whitelock of the Crusaders gets a yellow card.
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Ben Smith and Andy Ellis have a punch up.
Ben Smith and Andy Ellis have a punch up.
Adam Thompson hits Andy Ellis into touch.
Adam Thompson hits Andy Ellis into touch.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders left wing Hosea Gear in action against the Blues.
Highlanders left wing Hosea Gear in action against the Blues.
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh attacks the Blues' line.
Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh attacks the Blues' line.
Blues right wing David Raikuna is scragged by Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan.
Blues right wing David Raikuna is scragged by Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan.
Highlanders flanker Adam Thomson gets isolated against the Blues.
Highlanders flanker Adam Thomson gets isolated against the Blues.
Highlanders centre Tamati Ellison is tackled by Blues' second-five Michael Hobbs.
Highlanders centre Tamati Ellison is tackled by Blues' second-five Michael Hobbs.
Hosea Gear tackles Patrick Lambie of the Sharks off the ball.
Hosea Gear tackles Patrick Lambie of the Sharks off the ball.
Paul Jordaan and Tim Whithead of the Sharks look to tackle Nasi Manu.
Paul Jordaan and Tim Whithead of the Sharks look to tackle Nasi Manu.
Sharks players celebrates after a Patrick Lambie try.
Sharks players celebrates after a Patrick Lambie try.
Jacques Botes of the Sharks tackles Shaun Treeby.
Jacques Botes of the Sharks tackles Shaun Treeby.
Jarrad Hoeata looks to offload.
Jarrad Hoeata looks to offload.
Adam Thomson makes a break during the Highlanders win over the Cheetahs.
Adam Thomson makes a break during the Highlanders win over the Cheetahs.
James Haskell breaks through the Cheetahs' defence.
James Haskell breaks through the Cheetahs' defence.
Mike Delany of the Highlanders is tackled by Tim Bateman of the Hurricanes.
Mike Delany of the Highlanders is tackled by Tim Bateman of the Hurricanes.
Jimmy Cowan gets a pass away in the Highlanders win over the Cheetahs.
Jimmy Cowan gets a pass away in the Highlanders win over the Cheetahs.
Highlanders player Kurt Baker celebrates scoring his try in the second half against the Blues.
Highlanders player Kurt Baker celebrates scoring his try in the second half against the Blues.
Highlanders player Kurt Baker celebrates scoring his try in the second half against the Blues.
Highlanders player Kurt Baker celebrates scoring his try in the second half against the Blues.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Blues players.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Blues players.
Highlanders' Jarrad Hoeata tackling Blues' George Moala.
Highlanders' Jarrad Hoeata tackling Blues' George Moala.
Blues player Tom McCartney lines up the Highlanders' Adam Thomson.
Blues player Tom McCartney lines up the Highlanders' Adam Thomson.
Highlanders fan Renee Stewart celebrates.
Highlanders fan Renee Stewart celebrates.
The Highlanders Hosea Gear makes a break with the Blues Gareth Anscombe (left) in pursuit.
The Highlanders Hosea Gear makes a break with the Blues Gareth Anscombe (left) in pursuit.
Chris King & Josh Bekhuis congratule Ben Smith after his first try of the game.
Chris King & Josh Bekhuis congratule Ben Smith after his first try of the game.
Adam Thomson on the charge as the Rebels' James O'Connor looks on.
Adam Thomson on the charge as the Rebels' James O'Connor looks on.
Adam Thomson after scoring his third try of the game against the Rebels.
Adam Thomson after scoring his third try of the game against the Rebels.
Jimmy Cowan before feeding the ball into the scrum against the Rebels.
Jimmy Cowan before feeding the ball into the scrum against the Rebels.
Ben Smith being tackled by Rebels' Tom Chamberlain.
Ben Smith being tackled by Rebels' Tom Chamberlain.
 Hosea Gear is tackled by Rebels' Luke Jones.
Hosea Gear is tackled by Rebels' Luke Jones.
Colin Slade of the Highlanders is taken from the field with a suspected broken leg against the Brumbies.
Colin Slade of the Highlanders is taken from the field with a suspected broken leg against the Brumbies.
Colin Slade of the Highlanders is taken from the field with a suspected broken leg against the Brumbies.
Colin Slade of the Highlanders is taken from the field with a suspected broken leg against the Brumbies.
Henry Speight of the Brumbies fends off the tackle of Colin Slade.
Henry Speight of the Brumbies fends off the tackle of Colin Slade.
Ben Mowen of the Brumbies looks to pass the ball against the Highlanders.
Ben Mowen of the Brumbies looks to pass the ball against the Highlanders.
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders is tackled by Stephen Moore of the Brumbies.
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders is tackled by Stephen Moore of the Brumbies.
Ben Smith of the Highlanders is tackled by Henry Speight of the Brumbies.
Ben Smith of the Highlanders is tackled by Henry Speight of the Brumbies.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders makes his way through a pack of Hurricanes.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders makes his way through a pack of Hurricanes.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders makes his way through a pack of Hurricanes.
Adam Thomson of the Highlanders makes his way through a pack of Hurricanes.
Highlanders openside flanker John Hardie celebrates his second half try with Tamati Ellison (left) against the Waratahs.
Highlanders openside flanker John Hardie celebrates his second half try with Tamati Ellison (left) against the Waratahs.
Highlanders No 6 Adam Thomson grabs a lineout throw against the Waratahs.
Highlanders No 6 Adam Thomson grabs a lineout throw against the Waratahs.
Hooker Jason Rutledge pops up as the Highlanders scrum pushes the Waratahs back.
Hooker Jason Rutledge pops up as the Highlanders scrum pushes the Waratahs back.
Making himself an instant hero with Highlanders fans, Hosea Gear dives over for the match-winning try.
Making himself an instant hero with Highlanders fans, Hosea Gear dives over for the match-winning try.
The Highlanders bench feeling the intensity of a close match in the second half.
The Highlanders bench feeling the intensity of a close match in the second half.
Adam Thomson attempts to slip out of the ankle-lock by Crusader Matt Todd.
Adam Thomson attempts to slip out of the ankle-lock by Crusader Matt Todd.
Lively Highlanders wing Buxton Popoali'i is taken to the ground by Matt Todd.
Lively Highlanders wing Buxton Popoali'i is taken to the ground by Matt Todd.
Highlanders No 7 John Hardie gets knocked back in the tackle.
Highlanders No 7 John Hardie gets knocked back in the tackle.
A packed Forsyth Barr Stadium for the Highlanders' debut match at their new home.
A packed Forsyth Barr Stadium for the Highlanders' debut match at their new home.
Andrew Hore holds his sore shoulder against the Chiefs.
Andrew Hore holds his sore shoulder against the Chiefs.
Kade Poki of the Highlanders lifts TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes in the tackle.
Kade Poki of the Highlanders lifts TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes in the tackle.
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes and Colin Slade of the Highlanders watch the ball.
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes and Colin Slade of the Highlanders watch the ball.
TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes and Hosea Gear of the Highlanders tangle.
TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes and Hosea Gear of the Highlanders tangle.
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle  Fritz Lee.
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle Fritz Lee.
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.

The Highlanders have kept their play-off hopes alive with a courageous win against the competition leading Bulls in Dunedin tonight.

Coming off a two-game losing streak, a second half try to Jarrad Hoeta proved the difference as the Highlanders wore down their big South African opposition in the second half to win 16-11.

The Bulls took a 6-3 lead into halftime with Morne Steyn, playing his 100th game for the South African franchise, landing two penalties after his first attempt cannoned off the uprights.

The Bulls weren't exactly enterprising through the first half, prepared to put any ball up in the air and sweat on mistakes from the Highlanders in front of a crowd of 14,967.

There were plenty of those, with the Highlanders struggling to handle the bomb and suffering from a malfunctioning lineout which coughed up four turnovers in the first spell.

Shovelling the ball wide, the Highlanders were struggling to make any inroads into the Bulls defence, which was solid for much of the half.

NO WAY THROUGH: Highlanders' fullback Ben Smith is held in the tackle.
NO WAY THROUGH: Highlanders' fullback Ben Smith is held in the tackle.

Mike Delany levelled the scores seven minutes after the break as the Highlanders started to create some half gaps.

The second half turned into a stalemate with neither side looking like putting together a try-scoring movement.

Bulls loosehead Dean Greyling paid the price for the Bulls tactics of slowing down Highlanders' ruck ball with 57 minutes gone when he was yellow carded by referee Ian Smith.

The Highlanders came desperately close to scoring when Jarrad Hoeta tried to crash over from a goal line ruck but he was deemed to have come up just short by the Television Match Official.

He wouldn't be denied just a minute later when he slammed his way over for a vital try.

Delany's conversion had the Highlanders ahead 13-6 with 14 minutes left on the clock and momentum had clearly swung the way of the home team when Delany added a penalty with 10 minutes left for a 10-point lead.

The Bulls had a golden opportunity when Greyling went over to score a try but had the ball knocked loose by Tamati Ellison but it was only a brief respite before replacement hooker Willem Wepener barrelled his way over.

Steyn's conversion hooked left to leave the visitors trailing by five with five minutes to play.

The Bulls attacked strongly in the closing minutes but they were held out by some stoic Highlanders defence and memorable turnovers from Nasi Manu and Scott Fuglistaller.

HIGHLANDERS 16 (Jarrad Hoeta try; Mike Delany 2 pen, con)

BULLS 11 (Willem Wepener try; Morne Steyn 2 pen)

HT: 3-6

The Southland Times