The Hurricanes came from behind to beat the Highlanders 25-22 thanks to a last-gasp Beauden Barrett penalty after the hooter at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
Barrett made no mistake from in front, dispatching the penalty with the last play of the game to give the Hurricanes their fourth win on the bounce against the Highlanders, at home.
Ben Lam equalised with nine minutes remaining after Jordie Barrett combined with Chase Tiatia in the midfield to send the flyer away.
Beauden Barrett missed the touchline conversion leaving the game tied at 22-all before winning the game at the death.
Ngani Laumape was a powerhouse in midfield, combining brute strength with finesse once again, collecting a first-half brace to add to last weekend’s hat-trick.
Aaron Smith opened the scoring for Aaron Mauger’s men, but the Otago side found themselves down at half-time after Laumape’s two scores.
The visitors did, however, hit back soon after the interval through tries by Sio Tomkinson, who intercepted Beauden Barrett, and Liam Coltman.
The hooker dotted down after a powerful driving maul. Marty Banks, taking over the kicking duties after Josh Ioane’s poor display with the boot, added the extras to give his side a two-score advantage.
Mauger’s team could not hold on to their lead, squandering some good opportunities before Lam’s try and Beauden Barrett’s boot, sealed the deal.
Video Highlights Hurricanes versus Highlanders
Both teams take time to get going in scruffy opening 30 minutes
In a match with lots of errors, it was never dull. Both sides tried to play, but they could not overcome the basic errors.
It usually does not take long for a try in these derbies and the teams did not disappoint. It was an unusual score that got the Highlanders on the scoreboard.
Aaron Smith tackled Ardie Savea, got to his feet and back behind the offsides’ line. His forwards, with a powerful counter-ruck, won the turnover and he dotted down between a bundle of bodies.
Ioane, who had a bad day with the boot, missed another kick, this time a penalty.
The visitors themselves were giving away too many penalties, putting themselves under pressure inside their half. Yet somehow, the Canes couldn’t get anything going.
Not until some wonderful work by TJ Perenara sparked the home side. The scrumhalf put Liam Mitchell through a gap and the lock-forward bolted into the opposition’s 22.
He began to run out of gas and just before he was caught, he played an inside pass to the supporting Laumape to finish with Ben Smith on his back.
Dane Coles was pinged for not supporting his body-weight and this time, Ioane did not miss.
The game was opening up; Lam went close, only to lose the ball in the act of trying to score, and Tevita Li knocked on a sure try when he intercepted Beauden Barrett’s stray pass.
Then just before the half ended Laumape had his second try. Another poor Ioane clearance landed in the waiting arms of the older Barrett.
The first-five eighth looked up, and instead of passing into centre-field, he saw Laumape hanging by the sideline. Barrett bent a pin-point banana kick into the path of the centre.
The ball bounced, the 25-year-old gathered and beat Ioane’s weak cover-tackle to register another double.
Highlanders hit back after the break
The second half started brightly for the Dunedin outfit when Tomkinson shot out of the line and latched on to a floated pass.
He read Beauden Barrett’s eyes and snapped the flyhalf’s pass out of the air to stroll in from 25 metres. Ioane’s successful kick gave the visitors a slender one-point lead.
Vaea Fifita almost got an intercept, but he lost the ball forward, saving Marty Banks’ blushes. Waisake Naholo had entered the game and was throwing his weight around.
The Highlanders were growing in stature. Coles was again penalised at the ruck. Banks kicked to the corner for his forwards to set up a driving maul.
They did not disappoint. Ferried by a frenzied Aaron Smith, they bulldozed their way over from 7 metres out for Coltman’s score.
Banks added the extras, giving the Otago side a two-score lead in the final quarter. Beauden Barrett reduced the deficit, soon after with a 64th-minute penalty.
The Battering Lam cannot be stopped
It was time for John Plumtree’s charges to conjure some magic. And they did as they always do when you have a backline full of gifted footballers.
They performed an illusion using smoke and mirrors – and cunning – bewildering the Highlanders.
A solid lineout drive came to nought, but the Canes went wide.
Laumape took the ball at first receiver before playing Beauden Barrett on his outside.
Barrett drifted then passed wide to Tiatia, who had joined the line. The fullback offloaded like a hot potato into the arms of Jordie Barrett.
The younger Barrett sent out a pass to Lam, who received the gift with pleasure as he sauntered over the whitewash to level the game. It was a thing of beauty.
Beauden Barrett missed the conversion, keeping the scores tied.
Savea saved the day with some more good work at the breakdown after another barnstorming Naholo run had set up the Highlanders in a good position to win the game.
The Hurricanes cleared. Time was winding down, and it was the turn of the hosts to mount a late challenge. The marched down the field with some pick and drives, keeping the ball in close quarters.
Jackson Hemopo, who had been immense for the visitors, had a brain-freeze. He infringed, right in front of referee Damon Murphy, at the breakdown and gave the Canes a shot at goal from 23 metres.
This time, Barrett did not miss.
Final Score: Hurricanes 25 (14) Highlanders 22 (8)
Tries – Laumape (2), Lam
Pen – B. Barrett (2)
Con – B. Barrett (2)
Tries – A. Smith, Tomkinson, Coltman
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J’ Ioane, Banks
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Nick Hogan
TMO: Shane McDermott
Hurricanes: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ben May, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Vince Aso.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Jackson Hemopo, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Waisake Naholo.