Hurricanes reclaim top spot

The Hurricanes continued their unbeaten start to the season with a scrappy 20-13 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

New Zealand derbies are notorious for their high skill levels and breathtaking rugby. This was not one of them. With the array of attacking talent on display, much was expected between these two sides, and neither managed to deliver.

The Hurricanes won't mind one single bit. Five wins from five starts, and four of those away from home. They couldn't have asked for a better start to the season. With home matches against the Rebels and the Stormers in the next fortnight before a well-deserved break, the Canes will be looking to press home their advantage.

Following an utterly forgettable first half, the Hurricanes regained their composure to get across the line against a Highlanders side that already has the scalps of the Waratahs and Chiefs to their name.

The Highlanders were typically tenacious, especially at the breakdown where they caused the Hurricanes endless problems during the first half. The visitors didn't help their cause, as uncharacteristic handling errors meant they were unable to build any momentum, while Beauden Barrett's accuracy off the kicking tee went awry.

The two sides headed into the break locked at 3-3, but the Hurricanes soon hit the front through a Reggie Goodes try. Barrett extended the lead, but the Highlanders fought their way back into the match in the final quarter.

A Lima Sopoaga penalty moved them within a converted try, but after turning down a kickable penalty in the 70th minute, the Hurricanes went down the other end to score what would turn out to be the match-winning try through TJ Perenara.

There was still time for the Highlanders to score and set up a grandstand finish, but following a forward pass in the final move of the match, the Hurricanes booted the ball into touch to maintain their perfect start.

Highlanders – Try: Lima Sopoaga. Conversion: Sopoaga. Penalties: Sopoaga (2).
Hurricanes – Tries: Reggie Goodes, TJ Perenara. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (2)

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Leniert-Brown, 18 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery.

Hurricanes – 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs:16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Ben May, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 James Marshall.

Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images