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Fekitoa magic earns late Highlanders win

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/05/2017

A barnstorming Malakai Fekitoa try five minutes before full-time has handed the Highlanders a gritty 17-10 win over the Bulls at a mud-spattered Loftus Versfeld.

With both sides down to 14 men after Waisake Naholo and RG Snyman's red cards, the 23-cap All Black darted through a gap in the midfield and evaded two challenges to cross under the posts.

Fekitoa's effort hands the Landers their seventh straight Super Rugby win, a franchise record, and keeps them in the finals hunt.

"Handling was difficult, the ball was like a bar of soap," Highlanders skipper Ash Dixon told South African media.

"But we believe in each other and that's what keeps the victories coming."

In conditions that suited the Dunedin-based side's kick-heavy approach, fullback Matt Faddes scored the opening try after collecting a Richard Buckman chip.

Yet the stand-in No.15, playing in place of Ben Smith, went from hero to villain soon after the break with a simple handling error that gave Bulls counterpart Warrick Gelant a straightforward five-pointer.

Naholo's red card for a mistimed shoulder charge soon followed, handing the Bulls the upper hand, before Snyman's late clean-out and subsequent dismissal.

Fekitoa, his white jersey caked with brown mud, then popped up to break the game open and secure the points for his side.

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