The Highlanders climbed into the top half of the Super Rugby standings on Friday thanks to a 35-31 win over the Hurricanes.
The Highlanders climbed into the top half of the Super Rugby standings on Friday thanks to a 35-31 win over the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The Hurricanes outscored their hosts three tries to two but the Highlanders bossed the breakdown as they bounced back from a frustrating home loss to the Force last week.
Second-half tries from Phil Burleigh and Patrick Osborne saw the Highlanders home after Lima Sopoaga had kicked his side into a handy lead at the interval.
A frenetic but try-less first half came to an end with the Highlanders ahead 18-9. The Hurricanes defence finally cracked after the break as the hosts raced to a 35-12 lead by the hour mark.
But three Hurricanes tries in the final quarter, including two from Beauden Barrett, set up a grandstand finish.
The Hurricanes were being murdered at the breakdown, allowing Sopoaga to slot six penalties (it should have been seven) to Barrett's three in the first half.
Contrary to what the half-time scoreline might suggest, there was no lack of positive intent from either side. It took 23 minutes for the first scrum to pack down as both sides played at a high tempo.
The second-half was just as fast and the Highlanders' first try was real gem, sparked by Ben Smith from deep. The full-back bust clear from inside his own half before linking with the outstanding Aaron Smith whose offload put Burleigh clear to score under the sticks.
Sopoaga added the conversion and his seventh penalty before Osborne rammed the advantage home with a long-range intercept try.
The Hurricanes came flying back in the last 20 minutes though as Ben Franks crashed over from short range to keep his team in the game.
Barrett was put into space down the left touchline to score twice in the closing ten minutes but the 'Canes' comeback ultimately proved to be too late and they will have to settle for a losing bonus-point.
Tries: Burleigh, Osborne
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Pens: Sopoaga 7
Yellow card: Hoeata
Tries: Franks, Barrett 2
Cons: Barrett 2
Pens: Barrett 4
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Shaun Treeby.
Hurricanes 15 Marty Banks, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Blade Thomson/Adam Hill, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Andre Taylor.
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)