Influential flanker Ardie Savea scored a brace of tries as the Hurricanes claimed a thrilling 31-28 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
What an entertaining way to start round eight of Vodacom Super Rugby. This was a highly compelling affair from start to finish, with the Canes ultimately holding off a late surge from the Highlanders to secure an important win.
Prior to this encounter, the Highlanders had won 14 of their last 15 home games, and looked well on track to add to that proud record when they led 28-17 after an hour of play.
To the Hurricanes’ credit, though, they then flicked a switch and responded with two superb tries, while producing a ferocious defensive display to ultimately hold on for a second win against the Highlanders this season.
Despite the last-gasp efforts of the Landers after they had won a sequence of penalties at the death, the Canes managed to hang on for victory after the hosts had turned down kickable penalties that could have secured a draw.
This clash got off to a frenetic start, but despite the Hurricanes having a host of early opportunities, their finishing left a lot to be desired. To make matters worse, the Highlanders scored at virtually the first time of asking, with Shannon Frizell bursting over the tryline just before the quarter-hour mark.
It set the tone for what was an open, entertaining and free-flowing first half. By the time the interval arrived, the Hurricanes and Highlanders and Hurricanes had made 368 and 251m respectively, while hardly putting boot to ball.
On the balance of play, the 14-14 scoreline at the break was probably a fair reflection of the opening stanza, although the Canes were rather fortunate to have benefited from a late intercept try to Ardie Savea just when it looked as if the hosts were just starting to establish ascendancy.
Ben Lam and Ardie Savea combine for one of the #SuperRugby tries of the season ??️
The Highlanders lead the Hurricanes by four points with 15 minutes still to play. pic.twitter.com/iajRbXwCpl
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) April 5, 2019
It wouldn’t take long for the Highlanders to re-establish the lead, though, with Kayne Hammington bursting off the back of a dominant scrum to score under the posts in the 54th minute. The Landers were suddenly beginning to dominate the forward exchanges and grow in confidence, and they next set up a perfectly executed driving maul for James Lentjes to score.
That try sent the Highlanders into a handy 28-17 lead at the hour mark, and the Canes looked done for. Yet captain TJ Perenara had other ideas, and could be seen giving his teammates a tongue-lashing under the posts.
It appeared to spark a response from the Hurricanes, as sensational Savea and Ngani Laumape scored two quick-fire tries to send the visitors into a three-point lead almost out of nowhere.
From there, the Canes managed to stave off the Highlanders’ late efforts to secure a fifth win of the season.
In one of the most exciting #SuperRugby matches this season, the Hurricanes have edged the Highlanders 31-28!
The Highlanders had multiple penalties and chances to win it in the 80th minute but could not convert. pic.twitter.com/UmFwqWzFlH
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) April 5, 2019
Highlanders – Tries: Shannon Frizell, Ash Dixon, Kayne Hammington, James Lentjes. Conversions: Marty Banks (4).
Hurricanes – Tries: TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea (2), Ngani Laumape. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (4). Penalty: Barrett.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (co-c), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Richard Buckman, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-c), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 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 TJ Perenara (c), 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.
Subs: 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.
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images