Hurricanes edge Highlanders 21-22 in an absorbing Super Rugby Pacific contest at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
Aidan Morgan came off the bench to score a marvellous maiden Super Rugby try as the Hurricanes recovered to beat the Highlanders in an absorbing New Zealand derby under the lights.
On a night of high drama, the Highlanders fought back from 17-6 down with less than half an hour to play.
The Landers then scored 15 unanswered points to take a 21-17 lead, with 12 to play.
But Morgan’s try, with six minutes remaining, put the visitors ahead by one before an astonishing final few minutes.
A 21-phase attack ended with boos from the partisan support after Saula Ma’u was not awarded a game-winning try after the hooter.
Mau was tackled short by Barrett and Asafo Aumua after Scott Gregory went close.
Referee Angus Mabey called “on-field decision, no try” and TMO Glenn Newman agreed, ruling Ma’u was held up.
The replay showed the officials got the final call right, but tell that Tony Brown, Aaron Smith, the players and the supporters.
Bailyn Sullivan and Salesi Rayasi also crossed for the Hurricanes, while Jordie Barrett kicked a penalty and two conversions for seven points.
Marty Banks landed three shots at goal and one conversion for 11 points.
Andrew Makalio and Max Hicks dotted down for the hosts, but the Highlanders tasted another disappointing defeat.
The Hurricanes continue to have the Highlanders’ number, winning their 10th Super Rugby match in the last 12 fixtures between the two sides.
The win sees the Hurricanes claim a rare away win after losing 10 of their previous 14 on the road against fellow New Zealand opposition.
The Highlanders’ season keeps spiralling. The Otago side is one of three other teams (Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika) with only one Super Rugby Pacific win in 2022.
Barrett converted Sullivan and Rayasi’s first-half tries as the Canes led the Landers 14-6 at the break
Banks landed two penalties on either side of Josh Dickson’s 20th-minute red card.
Dickson was sent off for a shoulder hit on Tevita Mafileo’s head and neck.
The card, however, did not prove costly as the Canes only managed a converted try. Banks added a late goal before Max Hicks replaced the 27-year-old lock.
The Highlanders’ first-five opened the scoring in the sixth minute, but the visitors struck soon afterwards.
TJ Perenara’s quick-tap penalty kick-started a slick attack outside the opposition’s 22 that went from left to right and through the hands of Sullivan on the touchline.
The 23-year-old midfielder stepped inside James Lentjes and Gregory.
He slipped Hugh Renton’s tackle attempt and left Aaron Smith and Connor Garden Bachop in the dust to score under the posts.
The Hurricanes brought the razzle-dazzle and were cutting apart the Highlanders, but only scored once with 15 men
A sublime backline move off the back of the scrum involving Ardie Savea and Perenara ended with Josh Moorby passing behind Julian Savea and into touch.
“The Bus” caused all manner of problems as he busted tackles. Minutes later, the winger was at it again.
Jackson Garden-Bachop combined with Perenara and Julian Savea, who bounced Gregory before Renton and Gareth Evans got back to make the tackles to dislodge the ball as the Savea looked to dot down.
Dickson was off soon afterwards, and the visitors had a second try.
Finally, the Hurricanes managed to score from the first phase of the lineout.
Jackson Garden-Bachop took Perenara’s pass and put Rayasi, running around the back from his wing, away for the score.
Barrett converted again but Jason Holland’s side could not turn the screw, or pressure into points.
Brown, who cut a frustrated figure, would have been happy that his side did not fold.
They, instead, rallied to keep the Wellington team to seven, while scoring three points before getting back to their full quota when Banks knocked over a 33rd-minute goal.
The Hurricanes stuttered as the Highlanders grew in confidence, and took control of the tight New Zealand derby
Holland’s side went to sleep in the second half, they lost their discipline, conceding five penalties in a row to give the Brown’s men a chance to get back into the game.
Barrett increased his side’s lead to 14 points with a penalty eight minutes after the interval.
Despite looking out of the contest for much of the game, the home team dug deep to cut the deficit to three.
Makalio flopped over the chalk after a powerful rolling maul by his fellow forwards before Banks landed a 58th-minute penalty to make it 14-17.
Perenara thought he’d scored, but the touch-judge raised his flag after Hicks’ try-saving tackle on Older Savea saw ‘The Bus’ stand on the chalk.
A sensational counter-attack from the Highlanders saw them go close before Ardie Savea won a turnover under his posts.
Younger Savea, however, lost possession, and the ball got shifted quickly to Hicks to crash through Rayasi and put his side ahead.
Banks slotted the conversion for a four-point lead going into the final 12 minutes.
Morgan came off the bench to win the game for his team.
The 20-year-old flyhalf combined with wingers Savea and Rayasi to score his maiden career try in the corner after a slick backline move from the set-piece.
The home team searched for a late winner; they went close. But ultimately, Brown’s side came up short once again.
Final Score: Highlanders 21 (6) Hurricanes 22 (14)
Tries – Makalio, Hicks
Pen – Banks (3)
Con – Banks
Cards – Dickson (Red, 20′)
Tries – Sullivan, Rayasi, Morgan
Pen – J. Barrett
Con – J. Barrett (2)
Referee: Angus Mabey
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Winter
TMO: Glenn Newman
Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Denny Solomona, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Fetuli Paea.
Hurricanes: 15 Josh Moorby, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tevita Mafileo, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Pouri Rakete-Stones.
Replacements: 16 Kianu Kereru-Symes, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Caleb Delany, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Aidan Morgan, 23 Peter Umaga-Jensen.