The Highlanders moved off the bottom of the Super Rugby table after recording an epic 49-44 victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday.
The Highlanders moved off the foot of the Super Rugby table after recording an impressive 49-44 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Victory provisionally moves Jamie Joseph's outfit above the Kings into fourteenth position, with the South Africans tackling the Stormers later today.
Early tries were claimed by Mose Tuiali'i, Tamati Ellison, Aaron Smith and Kade Poki as the Highlanders held on to their 32-13 interval lead.
A further seven tries were added after the break.
Colin Slade arguably played his best game in two years as he led the Highlanders attack, setting up first-half scores for Tuiali'i and Ellison on the fourteenth and seventeenth minute. The first coincided with Hosea Gear ranging before the aforementioned number eight finished it off.
It was the start of a four-score half from the men from the south as Ellison was next to go over following Slade's chip over the top, which led to TJ Perenara misjudging the skid-back of the ball that allowed the All Black centre to ground. Slade's conversion made it 17-6 to the visitors.
The Highlanders weren't done there however as following a Slade penalty on 23 minutes, the Hurricanes' poor defence was once again noticeable. On this occasion it came from a static Highlanders maul, but when they moved it left through Elliot Dixon, Perenara was isolated and had to move in to tackle the flanker, thus freeing up his opposite number Smith to run in. Mark Hammett needed his men to respond before the break if they were to recover.
Luckily enough hooker Ash Dixon did cross for the 'Canes on the 36th minute, reaching out and grounding following TMO approval but when Poki scored a superb individual effort down the right touchline with the half's last play, Dixon's good work had been undone.
The Hurricanes weren't helping themselves and when Victor Vito gave away a soft penalty on 46 minutes to allow Slade to extend his tally, it had become a 22-point ball game. Their woes were compounded when Beauden Barrett kicked the resulting restart out on the full.
But then began a spirited comeback. The hosts would have a numerical advantage on the 53rd minute when scrum-half Smith was shown yellow for deliberately slowing down the ball at a ruck five metres out and they would capitalise. Soon after, numbers were created on the right where Barrett found Ben Franks for the try to make it 35-20 with ample time left.
Amazingly the deficit would be cut to just eight points six minutes later when replacement Brad Shields slipped a lovely ball to Julian Savea out on the left and the wing would race over. Suddenly a game that looked to be headed only one way was now anyone's.
The end-to-end nature of the contest continued as further outstanding scores were added by Gear, Dixon, Chris Smylie and James Broadhurst, with a total of 93 points racked up. But the 'Canes couldn't add the seven more to make it 100, which would have won the game.
Tries: A Dixon, Franks, Savea, Smylie, Broadhurst
Con: Barrett 5
Pen: Barrett 3
Tries: Tuiali'i, Ellison, A Smith, Poki, Gear, E Dixon
Con: Slade 3, Parker 2
Pen: Slade 3
Yellow: A Smith (53 mins – professional foul)
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Matt Proctor.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Shaun Treeby, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali'i , 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Jake Paringatai, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Buxton Popoalii.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)