Sopoaga gets his points across for record feat

00:21, Jun 30 2014
2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders, right, charges at the Blues' Piri Weepu.
2014 Highlanders season
Patrick Osborne looks to offload against the Blues in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Malakai Fekitoa looks to evade the Blues' tacklers.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlanders halfback general Aaron Smith barks out the orders.
Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith fires out a pass from a ruck to Lima Sopoaga.
Shaun Treeby
Highlanders second-five Shaun Treeby sends a skip-pass wide against the Chiefs.
Fumiaki Tanaka
The Highlanders' disappointment is written on the face of replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka.
Richard Buckman
Highlanders back Richard Buckman misjudges a high-ball against the Chiefs.
John Hardie
Highlanders No 7 John Hardie runs around his opposite Tanerau Latimer.
Kurt Baker
Highlanders wing Kurt Baker tries to break a Force tackle.
Malakai Fekitoa
Elliott Dixon hugs Malakai Fekitoa after his second half try at Dunedin Stadium.
Nasi Manu
Nasi Manu charges into a Western Force defender.
Shaun Treeby
Shaun Treeby reacts after his first-half try from an Aaron Smith grubber kick.
Fumiaki Tanaka
Replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka sends the Highlanders' backline on its way.
2014 Highlanders season
Shane Christie gets the ball away under pressure from the Blues' defence.
2014 Highlanders season
Kane Hames of the Highlanders makes a break against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Lima Sopoaga spins a pass out against the Blues in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Joe Wheeler of the Highlanders, left, and Ma'a Nonu of the Blues embrace after the full time whistle at Eden Park.
2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith tests out the Rebels' defence in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlander Kurt Baker is hit hard in a tackle by Sean McMahon of the Rebels.
Highlanders 2014 season
Richard Buckman of the Highlanders and Bryce Hegarty of the Melbourne Rebels dance in mid air for possession of the ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kiwi born Jason Woodward of the Rebels fends off the Highlanders' Shaun Treeby during their teams' clash in Dunedin.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evan, with the support of Liam Coltman, makes a charge for the Highlanders against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
A grizzled Brad Thorn charges at Bulls lock Phillip Van Der Merwe.
Highlanders 2014 season
Jan Serfontein makes a break for the Bulls in Dunedin as the Highlanders defends scramble back.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders looking to attack SP Marais of the Sharks.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders taking a high ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action.
Highlanders 2014 season
Duane Vermeulen of the Stormers in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kurt Coleman of the Stormers during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evans of the Highlanders on the charge during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Hayden Parker of the Highlanders kicks a penalty during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions .
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders puts in a fend during Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tom Franklin
Tom Franklin of the Highlanders on the charge during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Liam Sopoaga
Liam Sopoaga of the Highlanders prepares to pass the ball during his side's clash with the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu scores a try in the round 18 match against the Highlanders at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.
 Israel Folau
HARD TO STOP: The Crusaders will keeping a close watch on Waratahs dangerman Israel Folau, pictured fending off the Highlanders’ Canterbury wing Patrick Osborne.
Alofa Alofa
Waratahs winger Alofa Alofa offloads the ball in a tackle during his side's 44-16 win over the Highlanders.
Bernard Foley
Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley is tackled by Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu celebrates scoring a try against the Highlanders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders fans cheer on their team in Christchurch in their round 19 Super Rugby game against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders lock Elliot Dixon reaches high to claim the ball in a lineout against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie encourages his Highlanders teammates in their round 19 Super Rugby match against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders prop Chris King looks on in disgust as the Crusaders look to snare three points in their round 19 Super Rugby clash.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie holds on for all money as he tries to bring down Kieron Fonotia in a tackle in the Highlanders' round 19 match against the Crusaders.
Marcell Coetzee
The Sharks celebrate Marcell Coetzee's second-half try against the Highlanders.
Malakai Fekitoa
Malakai Fekitoa's first-half try got the Highlanders back in the match after trailing 13-3 early.
Kane Hames
The Highlanders pile on prop Kane Hames after his try after the siren in the first half.
Lima Sopoaga
Lima Sopoaga kicks a first-half penalty against the Sharks.

In all the excitement of the Highlanders' vital 29-25 win over the Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday, Lima Sopoaga's record-breaking feats almost went unremarked.

Even Sopoaga and the man whose record he broke were unaware until being told about it by the media.

"For me, the season has been just about staying on the park and trying to rectify a few things from last season," Sopoaga said.

Lima Sopoaga
LIMA SOPOAGA: Southland's No 10 will be up against Highlanders team-mate Hayden Parker when the Stags face Otago on Saturday.

"I'd rather have the win than any points-scoring record."

Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown, who previously held the mark with 150 points - from the same number of games - in 2000 was about as disinterested as anyone can be that the mark had been broken.

"Lima's had a great season and deserves to break the record. We've got a few games left so hopefully, he can add a few more points to it."

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Having a consistent goal-kicker has been one of the reasons for the Highlanders' resurgence this year, said Brown, whose record of 857 points for the franchise will stand for a long time.

Sopoaga is averaging 13 points a game.

"Both Lima and Quasi [Hayden Parker] have kicked accurately this year. I'm pretty sure they are well over 85 per cent, which is as good as anyone in Super Rugby."

Sopoaga, who managed to string together only 28 games in his first three seasons, has now played 12 of the Highlanders' 14 games this season.

After two rocky performances in his comeback from an ankle injury, Sopoaga was much more assured against the Chiefs.

"I think I did my job as best as I could. I missed touch once, but I didn't let that compound and I did the things the coaches asked of me during the week so I'm pretty happy with that." Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said Sopoaga's goal kicking could not be underestimated.

"Consistent goal-kicking has been a real growth for us.

"What it does is it keeps you in the game. It allows you to chase a game, or put a lot of pressure on a team and makes them take more risks."

Goal kicking aside, it was the Highlanders' second try against the Chiefs that opposition teams will go back to this week.

A Brayden Mitchell turnover inside the Highlanders 22m would have been a good option to kick in such a tight game with the scores tied at 20-20.

Instead the ball was passed wide to a rampaging Malakai Fekitoa who fed Richard Buckman.

Buckman's last pass to Ben Smith was perfectly delayed and the result was a game-deciding try but the vision, the decision-making and the belief on display in that one movement bode well for the Highlanders during the next fortnight. The Highlanders' eighth win of the season lifted them to second in the New Zealand conference on points differential behind the Crusaders, and fourth overall.

One more win from their remaining games, against the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday, or the Crusaders in Christchurch the following week, would be enough to book them a spot in the post-season for the first time since 2002.

 

Highlanders season points record: 157* Lima Sopoaga (2014) 150 Tony Brown (2000) 142 Willie Walker (2003) 141 Tony Brown (2002) 122 Tony Brown (2001) 111 Israel Dagg (2010) 108 Tony Brown (1999) 107 Ben Blair (2005, 2006) 104 Tony Brown (2004) 91 Simon Culhane (1998)

The Southland Times