The Highlanders turned on one of their performances of the season to beat the Hurricanes 49-44, in a try-frenzy in the capital last night. With the match seen as having little significance in terms of overall standings, both sides being out of playoff contention, the Highlanders showed everyone again what could have been.
Both teams exchanged penalties early on, with Beauden Barrett kicking his side out to a 6-3 lead, before Colin Slade sparked the Highlanders into action.
Taking the ball from inside his own 22m, the first five-eight then linked up with Hosea Gear who took off down field, eventually being tackled just outside the opposition 22m. Tony Woodcock was on hand to gather Gear’s offload before handing the pill to Mose Tuiali’i who went in for the sides opening try. Slade finished it all off with a conversion to give the visitors a 10-6 15 minutes in.
Slade was at it again a couple of minutes later, taking off on a nice little run before putting in a nicely weighted chip kick for Tamati Ellison to chase. Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara was back in cover to chase the kick, however he failed to gather the ball as he dived for it, leaving Ellison to pick it up and cross over for the try. Slade again adding the extras, to have the Highlanders ahead 17-6 inside the opening quarter.
Elliot Dixon, in one of his best performances this season, got into the action in the 25th minute when he broke off the back of a maul, holding off the tackle of Perenara long enough to slip a great offload to put Aaron Smith in for a try.
The Hurricanes finally got a break when Hooker Ash Dixon closed the gap, diving through the defence for a try just minutes out from halftime. Barrett added the conversion to bring the score to 27-13.
Kade Poki finished off a superb first half effort when he went in for a try, fending off three defenders to grab the bonus point try after the halftime siren, giving the Highlanders a 32-13 lead at the break.
Aaron Smith received a yellow card in the 53rd minute after multiple team offences, the extra man giving the Hurricanes the space to put Ben Franks in for a try before Julian Savea grabbed one of his own moments later. Barrett kicking both conversions to close the gap to 35-27.
Hosea Gear took the match into his own hands when he set off on a run in the 64th minute, seeing off Barrett before spinning out of the tackle of Brad Shields to go in for a superb individual try. Hayden Parker added the extras to put the visitors ahead 42-27.
TJ Ioane showed his class minutes later when he took off on a charging run, pushing off a couple of would-be tacklers before slipping a nice ball to send Elliot Dixon in for a try between the posts. Parker kicked the conversion to bring the Highlanders out to a 49-27 lead.
The Hurricanes started a comeback with just over 10 minutes remaining, when reserve halfback Chris Smylie grabbed an opportunist try, intercepting an Andrew Hore pass from the bottom of the ruck to score an easy try.
James Broadhurst further closed the gap when he stretched out for a try, arguably while being held in a tackle however the try was awarded by the referee. Barrett added the extras to make the score 49-41.
The Highlanders again went down to 14 men with Bronson Murray receiving a late yellow card, leaving the southern men to finish the match one man down. The Hurricanes opted for a penalty following the offense, closing the scores to 49-44 where the would remain to give the Highlanders their third win for the season.
The bonus point victory has also allowed the Highlanders to move up a position on the table, lifting themselves from the bottom with one match remaining.
Highlanders 49 (Mose Tuiali'i, Tamati Ellison, Aaron Smith, Kade Poki, Hosea Gear, Elliot Dixon tries; Colin Slade 3 pen, 3 con; Hayden Parker 2 con)
Hurricanes 44 (Ash Dixon, Ben Franks, Julian Savea, Chris Smylie, James Broadhurst tries; Beauden Barrett 3 pen, 5 con) HT: 32-13

SupeRugby logo header speights min 2 Degrees logo v2 University of Otago logo Swanndri  Coresteel Blis placemakers new logo banner 104 Adidas Logo Small min