Lima Sopoaga scored 25 points in the Highlanders' 35-31 win against the Hurricanes in Dunedin.
The opposing flyhalves put on a goal-kicking exhibition in the first half. Sopoaga may have started the game poorly, with a miss from right out in front, but the Highlanders No 10 managed to put this mistake behind him and goal all of his subsequent attempts.
Beauden Barrett was in flawless goal-kicking form, and would score 26 of the Hurricanes' points on the night. It was not enough, however, as the Hurricanes left themselves with too much to do in the closing stages of the game.
The hosts lifted the tempo in the second half, and finally scored a try through centre Phil Burleigh. Winger Patrick Osborne then picked off a poor Hurricanes pass and raced away for the Highlanders' second try, and another great conversion by Sopoaga stretched the lead to 35-12.
The Hurricanes managed to score three tries in the final quarter, but this only served to add some respectability to the scoreline and earn them a losing bonus point.
The reality is that the Highlanders had this game won by the 60th minute, and if not for their drop in intensity during the dying stages they would have hammered the Hurricanes by a greater margin.
Highlanders – Tries: Phil Burleigh, Patrick Osborne. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2). Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (7).
Hurricanes – Tries: Ben Franks, Beauden Barret (2). Conversions: Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (4).
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Shaun Treeby.
Hurricanes – 15 Marty Banks, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Blade Thomson/Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Andre Taylor.
Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images