A last gasp drop goal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Bryn Gatland has now done this twice on Forsyth Barr Stadium. The first time was back in 2016 to win the Mitre 10 Cup Championship title for North Harbour against Otago. Gatland wasn’t a popular man in the Octagon that night. Fast forward four years and he is the new cult hero of Dunedin.
A couple of months ago the Highlanders were floundering near the bottom of the Investec Super Rugby ladder before Covid-19 ended the season. Now they are flying high after one round of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa with the big scalp of the Chiefs under their belt.
Adding even more drama to Gatland’s last minute heroics is the fact that it was achieved against his dad Warren’s side.
It was one of those remarkable sporting stories that Hollywood script writers would struggle to type out.
On paper, Gatland appears to be the third-choice pivot option for the Highlanders behind one Test All Blacks Josh Ioane and former Crusaders first five-eighth Mitch Hunt.
His actions on the weekend have given Head Coach Aaron Mauger something to think about, though.
Gatland appeared on Radio Hauraki this morning to chat through the moment with Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath.
“It happened pretty-quickly from the moment we lost the lead and Damian hit his one,” Gatland said.
“The communication that me, Mitchy and Aaron had on the way back to kicking off was just to get the ball back and then work towards the posts. Then we would try to get a penalty or otherwise look to set up for a droppie.
“I gave Aaron an eyebrow lift because I didn’t want them to know I was going to have a crack. I saw Brad Weber coming out of my eye line and he was coming pretty quick. I had a good chat to him after the game and he reckons he got his fingernails on it and it was close. I’m pretty happy it ended up like that.”
As for his father, Bryn said they had a brief chat after the game and there was no hiding his disappointment in the result but pride for his son’s efforts.
“He was pretty happy for me as a personal thing in that I hadn’t played a lot of rugby since my injury. So to get back on the field and do that (was great).
“But I can tell when he is not happy about the result, and he was not too happy about the result,” Gatland said.
The Gatlands will clash again when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in round six on Sunday July 19 at FMG Stadium Waikato.