The Highlanders were made to work for their fourth Super Rugby win on the trot after edging the Hurricanes 19-17 on Saturday.
The Highlanders were made to work for their fourth Super Rugby win on the trot after edging the Hurricanes 19-17 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
Both teams bagged one try each and the difference came down to penalties with the lead changing hands four times in another arm wrestle between two New Zealand sides.
In the end it was Chris Noake's 74th-minute penalty goal that proved to be the difference in the see-saw battle that had the Hurricanes leading 14-13 at the break, despite being 0-13 down at one point.
Colin Slade had weighed in with 16 points before Noakes came off the bench to land the winning penalty. For the Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett was on target with four penalties while Cory Jane scored their only try.
Playing in front of their home crowd for the first time this season, the Hurricanes were on the wrong side of the penalty count for the majority of the match. They did not help their cause either by turning over the ball far too frequently, allowing the Highlanders to get on the front foot.
However, despite overwhelming shares of territory and possession, the Highlanders failed to capitalise on their dominance and allowed the hosts back in the game.
Slade got the visitors up and running with a simple penalty, before converting his own try in the fifteenth minute of the match after crashing over from close range thanks to a quick-tap from halfback partner Jimmy Cowan.
Slade added a second penalty and it seemed if the southerners were well on their way to a comprehensive win. However the Hurricanes had other ideas…
The Hurricanes rallied with a try in the corner to All Blacks winger Jane and a series of penalties to Barrett to take a 14-13 lead at half-time.
The Highlanders, though, came out all guns blazing after the interval and retook the lead through the boot of Slade (14-16).
Kade Poki thought he had scored the second try for the Highlanders but the pass from Tamati Ellison was adjudged to be forward, while Josh Bekhuis knocked on close to the line.
Slade's final penalty attempt went wide before he was replaced by Noakes, and then the visitors fell behind 17-16 when Barrett slotted his fourth shot at goal for what seemd like the match-winner.
But the Highlanders never-say-die attitute was rewarded when they finally achieved sufficient control to force their way into Hurricanes territory and gained good field position from which Noakes kicked the winning three-pointer.
Pens: Barrett 4
Pens: Slade 4, Noakes
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Ma'afu Fia King, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (capt).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 James Haskell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Buxton Popoali'i.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand