Hurricanes snatch consecutive wins
March 15, 2013
TJ Perenara was among the Hurricanes' best
© Getty Images
The Hurricanes scored three tries to one to beat the Highlanders 23-19 in a Super Rugby cliffhanger at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.
It was the Hurricanes' second consecutive win and the Highlanders' third consecutive loss as the hosts continued their miserable start to the season.
There was little between the teams and, while Hosea Gear was a power runner for the Highlanders, the Hurricanes were more penetrative in attack.
"We were a little more direct and that's what got us the points in the end," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said after the match. Highlanders stand-in skipper Brad Thorn, meanwhile, said the defeat was hard to take. "To me it sucks, but nothing changes," Thorn said.
The Highlanders had made five changes to their starting line-up, including the selection of newcomer Jason Emery at centre, after their 36-19 loss to the Cheetahs in Invercargill last week.
The Hurricanes were seeking to build on their momentum after their 29-28 win over the Crusaders in the last round.
The Hurricanes had won 11 of 19 matches against the Highlanders, including a 26-20 victory in Dunedin last year after a late try by Julian Savea.
The Hurricanes claimed their second successive win of the season (video available only in Australia)
The Hurricanes opened the scoring with a well-worked try after seven minutes, putting together 13 phases before Conrad Smith crashed over after Brad Shields and Savea were held up just short.
The Highlanders lost captain Andrew Hore to a rib cartilage injury at the same time, Brayden Mitchell taking over at hooker.
Colin Slade kicked a penalty from 41 metres after 15 minutes but the Hurricanes responded with a sweeping move and a centre kick by Smith which almost brought a try.
The Highlanders put together their first decent attack after 28 minutes and 17 phases, before Slade kicked a penalty from in front to give them the lead.
But it was short-lived, prop Ben Franks scoring four minutes later after a punishing run by Victor Vito, with both Kade Poki and Ben Smith being swatted aside. Beauden Barrett converted from the sideline and the Hurricanes led 12-6.
The Highlanders scored their first try four minutes before the break when left wing Hosea Gear powered over from an attacking scrum and Slade converted to give them a 13-12 lead.
TJ Perenara almost scored on the stroke of half-time but lost the ball forward in Chris King's tackle.
The Highlanders had 61% possession but only 34% territory and struggled to impose themselves at scrum-time but the Hurricanes conceded more turnovers despite spending much more time in the red zone.
The Highlanders scored first in the second half, Slade kicking a regulation penalty to make it 16-12.
But the Hurricanes regained the lead when Perenara twisted through tackle after tackle to score a fine individual try and make it 17-16 after nine minutes.
The Highlanders were just denied a try when Emery was tackled centimetres short after good lead-up work by Poki and Ben Smith.
But the pressure told when Slade kicked his fourth penalty and the Highlanders were ahead 19-17 after 18 minutes.
The Hurricanes forged into opposition territory after a long spell in defence and Barrett kicked his first penalty as they regained the lead 20-19.
That lead became 23-19 nine minutes from the end when Barrett kicked a difficult long-range penalty after Mitchell was adjudged to have infringed at a ruck.
Slade missed a handy penalty which would have made it a one-point ball game with five minutes left, but the Hurricanes just held on in a thrilling finish.
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said the closeness of the matches in the New Zealand conference had been a topic within the camp during the week and so it proved again.
"Maybe five more minutes, the Highlanders could have pinched themselves some points," he told Sky TV.
"We hung in there and we backed ourselves, and we just ground out a good win."
Lock Brad Thorn, who replaced Hore as Highlanders skipper, acknowledged the fight his team-mates had put up, but said little errors were costly.
"What we're hoping to build towards is a bit of patience and to value that ball, and we've still got a bit to go."
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