Highlanders coaches Tony Brown and Clarke Dermody could only laugh after an unlikely brilliant attack from substitute hooker Rhys Marshall on Friday night.
With victory over the Force already secured in the second half, the Highlanders took out the celebratory rounds past rowdy Dunedin students under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.
In a well-executed planned move, Marshall threw short to flanker Hugh Renton who was immediately transferred to the hooker who began to rush down the left sideline.
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Hooker kick leaves coaches in points
Then the plot turned, as the first rower put his left boot on the ball as the Force defenders began to close in quickly.
It was an inspired move, with Marshall’s well-weighted kick bouncing into the clutches of Folau Fakatava for the halfback to score a crowd-pleasing try – and the coach.
“What about the left foot chip, Rhys Marshall, what is it?” Karl Te Nana said in commentary for Sky Sport.
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“He counts there: ‘I called him all day’!”
All Blacks great Justin Marshall then joined Brown and Dermody in a laugh.
“In a way, I don’t think it was meant to be like this,” Marshall said.
“That’s not exactly what they practiced on the training ground, a left kick from the hooker, extending down the sideline.”
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The 61-10 rout was a blow to 10th-placed Force hopes of sneaking into the first eight finals.
The Highlanders, meanwhile, have now won three games in a row and have firmed their hold on eighth place in the table.
The overmatched Force played with just 13 men late in the game after Feleti Kaitu’u and Richard Kahui received yellow and red cards respectively.
Marshall disagreed with both officials’ decisions.
“What are you supposed to do as a tackler?” Marshall asked after Kahui’s wicked one-on-one with Mitch Hunt.
“I just don’t see this as foul play, I’m sorry. There are things in the game called accidental collisions.”
The 2-9 Force is now eight points off playoff pace.
“We were looking for the game from the start,” Force captain Kyle Godwin said.
“The physique, the breakdown and the contact area, we were very poor tonight. We were our worst enemies there.
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“All credit goes to the Highlanders, it was a dominating display. Back to the drawing board for us.”
The game ended on a humorous note as Highlanders stalwart Daniel Lienert-Brown attempted a sideline conversion in his 100th game for the club.
It was a decent effort but didn’t bother the scorers.
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