Highlanders edge titanic tussle

The Highlanders clinched a nail-biting 18-16 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.

The victory was built on the back of solid defence, set-piece dominance and the boot of flyhalf Hayden Parker.

All of the previous 11 meetings between the two sides were decided by fewer than seven points, and this one was no different.

The Hurricanes took a 13-9 lead into the break after TJ Perenara went over for an opportunistic try, as he got one-up on All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith. It was no less than the Canes deserved, though, having dictated play in the first half.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with the Canes making all the play and the Highlanders keeping the scoreboard ticking over through Parker.

Beauden Barrett relinquished the kicking duties to Andre Taylor after picking up a knock, and it was a move that would prove costly for the Canes. He missed two penalties, while Parker was faultless, slotting what turned out to be the match-winning drop goal in the 68th minute.

It was left to the Canes to hammer away at the Highlanders line, but it was the wall of blue that won out in the end.

The victory gave the Highlanders' play-off hopes a massive boost, while the Canes will be left wondering 'what if'.

Hurricanes – Try: TJ Perenara. Conversion: Andre Taylor. Penalties: Barrett (2), Taylor.
Highlanders – Penalties: Hayden Parker (5), Drop goal: Parker

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Brad Shields, 22 Chris Smylie, 23 Alapati Leiua.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Jason Emery, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Aki Seuli, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Match centre

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images