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Savea double helps Hurricanes edge Highlanders

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The Hurricanes beat the Highlanders 28-31 in a thrilling New Zealand derby at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

A stunning eight-try epic ended with the Highlanders camped on the Hurricanes’ goal-line; however, the hosts could not finish the job despite Liam Mitchell’s yellow card after the hooter for collapsing the second of three driving mauls.

This clash was as good a Super Rugby match you will see, the game ending after a tumultuous final 15 minutes where momentum shifted several times in a tense finale under the lights.

The Highlanders eschewed three late chances of kicking a game-tying penalty, opting for their powerful driving maul, which had earlier accounted for Ash Dixon and James Lentjes’ tries.

Ardie Savea scored twice for Hurricanes either side of the break, to keep his team in the contest before Ngani Laumape’s 67th-minute score settled the game.

The two teams exchanged leads throughout, but mistakes from Aaron Magaur’s side proved costly with a 10-point swing either side of the break.

Each time the Highlanders scored, the Hurricanes pegged them back.

Video Highlights: Highlanders versus Hurricanes

Beauden Barrett’s early second-half penalty proved to be the difference as the first-five and Marty Banks converted all eight tries.

Kane Hammington scored from a scrum set-piece to put his team back in front before Lentjes’ score opened up an 11-point advantage.

However, John Plumtree’s men did not go away. Instead, they hit back through Savea and Laumape to overturn the deficit and hung on for a hard-fought victory at the death.

The Highlanders’ defeat ends a stretch of 14 wins in 15 Super Rugby matches, but the loss is their fourth in five derbies.

Scrappy opening 20 minutes as teams spar

The opening 40 minutes were helter-skelter as both sides attacked with abandon, running from anywhere on the field, especially after winning a turnover (of which there were nine apiece).

Every time the Highlanders scored, the Hurricanes hit back, levelling when Savea streaked away untouched after intercepting Tevita Li’s sloppy offload.

The opening quarter was a chess match with both teams kicking for territory when they weren’t throwing the ball around inside their 22.

Four tries in 20 minutes as the game bursts into life

Shannon Frizell opened the scoring from close range before TJ Perenara answered with a score of his own two minutes later.

Frizell, held-up by Laumape, reached out and dotted down to open the scoring.

The try kick-started what had been an intriguing first quarter as the teams sparred with each other looking to land a few blows.

Beauden Barrett and Laumape both went close after Jordie Barrett went around Richard Buckman, who seemed to have pulled a calve which meant he could not attempt a tackle on Barrett.

Barrett, playing outside centre after stints at wing and fullback, cruised through the gap.

Twelve phases later, the Hurricanes score through Perenara from close range. Beauden Barrett made a beeline for the try line but was stopped in his tracks.

The scrumhalf gathered the ball at the base of the ruck and darted over. Barrett levelled.

The Highlanders’ driving maul was wreaking havoc, by this stage. They scored twice from the set-piece.

Dixon crashed over from the first well-drilled driving maul. The TMO was called into play but found that there “was not enough evidence to overturn the decision” so the try stood.

Mauger’s side looked in control, but they were not. They were exposing themselves to the counter-attack.

Savea’s try did not come from a counter, however. The Landers were sloppy in possession. Li almost coughed the ball up before his brain-freeze.

The wing tried to offload in the tackle, but all he did was gift the opposition seven points and a way back into the contest.

Savea, alert to the miscue, interception the stary pass and raced away untouched. Barrett on the stroke of halftime levelled again.

Highlanders come out swinging

From trading blows to swinging haymakers, that’s how Super Rugby rolls.

The Hurricanes had opted not to take the points when they had opportunities, in the first stanza but they did at the start of the second half.

Barrett knocked over an early penalty to put his side in front for the first time; however, the lead was short-lived as the Highlanders upped the ante.

It was another masterful set-piece by the hosts. The front row got a right shoulder, wheeling the scrum, which opened up a massive hole where the Hurricanes’ first-five should have been.

Chase Tiatia was defending at first receiver with Beauden Barrett to his left. Laumape was on the blindside, while Jordie was stationed on his brother’s outside.

Savea was pulled into the scrum allowing Hammington to pick up the ball at the base of the scrum.

The halfback looked up, saw nobody at home and darted through unchallenged to score under the poles.

Another set-piece masterclass, four minutes later, extended the home side’s advantage. It was a thing of beauty. The ball was thrown into the lineout, gathered and taken down.

The speed at which the Otago men did this was extraordinary. It was as free-flowing a driving maul as you are likely to see. Tom Franklin landed, placed the ball in Lentjes’ hands.

In one motion, the Highlanders’ pack steam-rolled their opponents diagonally towards the try line, as if to gain more metres for their stats, and the flanker flopped over the chalk.

The Highlanders had landed two mighty blows to the body of the Wellington side.

Hurricanes have the last laugh and land knockout punch

Plumtree’s men regrouped. A rare Banks’ error helped them. The first-five kicked a nothing kick to Beauden Barrett down the middle of the field.

Barrett took the ball forward, saw he had Ben Lam on his outside and played the big ball-carrying winger.

Lam, taking the ball on his 10-metre line put his foot down, going route one through Reed Prinsep and Teihorangi Walden’s tackles. Banks fell off the wing before he ran over Hammington.

The 27-year-old drew Ben Smith and popped on his inside to the supporting Savea, who swerved Smith’s challenge.

The flanker stepped Li, sending him to the shops for an anion bagel then put on the jet burners as he raced away from Frizell to dive over in the corner for a stunning try on the hour.

A Thrilling finale to a blockbuster

With less than a quarter of an hour to play, the Hurricanes showed they could also score from a set-piece.

A centre-field scrum was the base for some more Beauden Barrett magic. The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year took the ball at speed to the gain line.

He slipped Walden’s tackle and offloaded out-the-back-door to Laumape.

The second-five burst through another soft Banks’ challenge and stepped Li as well before finishing near the posts. It was a sensational move.

The final 10 minutes played out like so

70min: NO TRY! The Highlanders were camped inside the Canes’ 22. They went wide after eight phases to Li. The winger beat a tackle and dived over in the corner. However, Wes Goosen’s tackle pushed Li into touch. It was a 22 drop-out to the guests.

72min: Vaea Fifita was pinged at the ruck allowing the hosts to kick to the Landers’ 22.

73min: USE IT OR LOSE IT! The Hurricanes held up the Highlanders’ driving maul; it’s the first time the visitors stopped the set-piece during the game.

75min: A mix up at the base of the scrum led to a knock on and an attacking scrum inside the Hurricanes’ 22 for the Highlanders.

77min: MASSIVE SCRUM! Superb drive by the Hurricanes’ forwards to win the penalty and can clear the danger.

78min: Rob Thompson killed a nine-phase attack with a poor pass into touch.

80min: The Highlanders won a penalty at the breakdown and Banks kicked to the corner instead of going for the tie.

81.00: Jeff To’omaga-Allen was pinged for a side entry at the maul. Banks kicked to the corner – again.

83min: YELLOW CARD! Mitchell was sent to the sin-bin because of another infringement, this time collapsing the maul. Banks kicked to the corner for the third time.

84min: OH NO! The Hurricanes contested the lineout putting pressure on the jumpers. It works because the ball was knocked forward. Finlay Christie collected the loose ball and punted it into the stands to end a thrilling contest in Otago.

Phew!

Final Score: Highlanders 28 (14) Hurricanes 31 (14)

Scorers

Highlanders
Tries – Frizell, Dixon, Hammington, Lentjes
Pen –
Con – Banks (4)
Drop –
Cards –

Hurricanes
Tries – Perenara, A. Savea (2), Laumape
Pen – B. Barrett
Con – B. Barrett (4)
Drop –
Cards – Mitchell (Yellow, 83′)

Match Officials
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen

Teams

Highlanders

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Richard Buckman, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Rob Thompson.

Hurricanes: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Kane Le’aupepe. 4 James Blackwell, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Fraser Armstrong.

Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Liam Mitchell, 21 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 22 Finlay Christie, 23 Matt Proctor.

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