Hurricanes triumph in see-sawing clash
Highlanders 20 Hurricanes 26
Hosea Gear of the Highlanders charges into his former teammates at the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty Images
The Hurricanes timed their run to perfection in a see-sawing Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin, two second-half tries enough to steal a 26-20 win on Saturday night.
Trailing by five at halftime after the Highlanders' bruising forwards set up a brace of early tries, the young Hurricanes kept running hard in the second 40 minutes and were rewarded with their sixth win of the competition.
The Hurricanes drew first blood with an early Beauden Barrett penalty but from then on it was all Highlanders.
Their scrum was rock solid, the lineout consistently clean and they attacked the breakdown with sustained ferocity.
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith and five-eighth Chris Noakes combined crisply and the backline utilised the good quality ball intelligently.
With plenty of front-foot ball and good field position, the Highlanders always looked threatening, delivering two quality tries in seven minutes as the 20-minute mark neared.
Smith featured in both, his ability to size up the options and slip the right pass catching the Hurricanes defence flat-footed and sending Noakes flying across after 14 minutes.
Openside flanker Adam Thomson extended the lead as the Highlanders opted for the line-out from a kickable penalty, keeping the ball close before Thomson latched onto Smith's well-timed pass to power over.
Barrett's boot kept the Hurricanes in touch with two further penalties as the Highlanders took a 14-9 lead into halftime.
Seven minutes after the restart, centre Phil Burleigh looked to have extended the lead, but was ruled in touch when he grounded.
The Hurricanes made them pay, smart work from the kickoff backed up by No.8 Victor Vito in offloading for blindside flanker Faifili Levave to touch down and close the gap to just one at 17-16 behind.
Another Barrett penalty 15 minutes from time put the visitors ahead briefly, Mike Delany returning the favour five minutes later to regain the lead until Savea's power and pace pierced the Highlanders' defence for the match-winning try.
HURRICANES 26 (Faifili Levave, Julian Savea tries Beauden Barrett 2 cons 4 pens) bt HIGHLANDERS 20 (Chris Noakes, Adam Thomson tries Noakes 2 cons Michael Delany, Noakes pens) at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Referee: Glen Jackson.