Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

More than 20,000 fans attend rugby's return in virus-free New Zealand - in pictures

The country declared itself free of Covid-19 and lifted restrictions on mass gatherings.

More than 20,000 fans witnessed the Otago Highlanders edge a 28-27 win against the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday as New Zealand welcomed the return of live sport after the coronavirus.

The highly anticipated fixture did not disappoint as Bryn Gatland's last-gasp drop goal settled a nail-biter in Dunedin.

Gatland scored the winning points in the 79th minute, denying the Chiefs after they had snatched the lead with their own drop goal just a minute earlier.

The Super Rugby game was played in a festival atmosphere at the Forsyth Barr Stadium just six days after New Zealand declared itself free of Covid-19 and lifted restrictions on mass gatherings.

"Actually being able to watch a rugby game after quarantine, we've come a long way since COVID. I think New Zealand's doing pretty good," a fan told AFP.

Gatland was only brought on to the bench for the Highlanders after Josh Ioane pulled out with a groin strain, and came on for his game-winning cameo near the end.

In a tense finish, Damian McKenzie's drop goal put the Chiefs ahead, only for Gatland to settle the contest with his long-distance reply from nearly 40 metres.

"I never imagined it would be like that," Highlanders captain Ash Dixon said.

Updated: June 13, 2020 09:16 PM

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