Unbeaten Hurricanes win in Dunedin

Date published: March 20 2015

The Hurricanes' phenomenal start to season continued on Friday as they beat the Highlanders 20-13 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Incredibly, this is the thirteenth consecutive game between these sides to be decided by seven points or less!

The result means the Hurricanes – the only unbeaten side left in the competition – provisionally return to the top of the Super Rugby standings thanks to their fifth win from as many games.

The 'Canes outscored their hosts two tries to one but it was their defensive effort that was most impressive, led by in-from All Black centre Ma' a Nonu, who put in a few thundering hits.

An arm-wrestle of a first half finished with the scores locked at 3-all as Lima Sopoaga and Beauden Barrett traded penalties.

A scrappy opening period failed to live up to the pre-game expectations, though it wasn't from a lack of positive intent.

The second half saw a raise in intensity and pace. The Hurricanes crossed the whitewash via tries from Reggie Goodes and TJ Perenara but the Highlanders forced a grandstand finish via Sopoaga's late try.

The Highlanders came closest to scoring a try in the first half with Malakai Fekitoa getting over, but it was disallowed by the TMO with Ben Smith pinged for hanging onto Brad Shields' leg off the ball.

The Hurricanes showed greater composure after the break and were rewarded with the first try as Goodes crashed over from close range.

Barrett's conversion and a penalty just before the hour mark put the visitors ahead 13-3 going into the final quarter.

Sopoaga's second penalty of the night cut the gap but the Highlanders were guilty of being a little impatient, trying to force the issue on a few occasions

Credit to the Hurricanes' defence though as a handful of try-saving tackles kept the hosts at bay.

Perenara sniped over with eight minutes left to seal the win but the Highlanders kept coming.

Sopoaga sold a great dummy to cross and his conversion meant the hosts were still able to snatch a draw against the 14-man Canes following Julian Savea's sin-binning. They almost did managed it but their try-scoring effort after the hooter was rightly disallowed for a forward pass.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Try: Sopoaga
Con: Sopoaga
Pens: Sopoaga 2

For Hurricanes:
Tries: Goodes, Perenara
Cons: Barrett 2
Pens: Barrett 2
Yellow Card: J. Savea

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Leniert-Brown, 18 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery.

Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Ben May, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 James Marshall.

Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)