All Blacks and Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith has done many freakish things on the rugby field over his career, but a trysaving effort against the Blues on Sunday might take the cake.
Blues hooker Kurt Eklund looked to dive over into the third minute at Forsyth Barr Stadium, only to be held up by the arm of Scott Gregory and Smith’s right boot – placing the ball directly onto Smith’s perfectly-positioned foot.
“I think this is the just luck from Aaron Smith. I don’t know if he’s done that on purpose,” said Sky commentator Christian Cullen.
“I don’t know what size foot he has but that is the unbelievable,” Cullen added.
“How freakish is the that?” added sideline commentator Karl Te Nana. “I don’t think I’ve seen that ever.”
Smith raced away grinning after stopping Eklund’s effort, and TMO Chris Hart confirmed the ball never touched the grass, with the Blues having to return from their presumptuous trip to halfway for a five-metre scrum.
Unfortunately for Smith and the Highlanders, the remarkable effort was ultimately for nought as Akira Ioane scored from the back of a scrum three minutes later to give the Blues the lead.
Smith was amongst the action all game, as later into the first half he earned a controversial penalty against Blues prop Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Tu’inukuafe was into an offside position as Smith collided with him, throwing the ball away wildly. The resulting play from the Highlanders saw Blues flanker Dalton Papalii claim an intercept and run away for a long-distance try, but the try was disallowed after referee Mike Fraser – with assistance from a query from Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon – consulted the Television Match Official and deemed Smith, who some argued had milked the contact with Tu’inukuafe, to have drawn an infringement.
The Highlanders kicked the resulting penalty to take a 13-12 lead, but the Blues struck back to lead at halftime, and pulled away into the second half to claim a deserved victory and stay into the hunt for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title.