Super Rugby: Highlanders hold out to beat Hurricanes in a 93-point thriller
By Ben Hampshire. Last Updated: 06/07/13 11:21am
The Highlanders moved from the foot of the Super Rugby table by recording a stunning 49-44 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Mose Tuiali'i, Tamati Ellison, Aaron Smith, Kade Poki, Hosea Gear and Elliot Dixon all crossed as the vicitors emerged winners in a ten-try affair which saw both sides earn bonus points.
Victory provisionally moves Jamie Joseph's side above the Kings into 14th position, with the South Africans tackling the Stormers later on Saturday.
Early penalty exchanges between Highlander Colin Slade and Hurricane Beauden Barrett saw the sides level at 6-6 in the opening ten minutes.
However, Slade turned provider on the 15-minute mark when his nifty footwork allowed him to find Gear nearby before Tony Woodcock released Tuiali'i to touch down the opening try. Fly-half Slade duly added the extras to regain the lead for the visitors.
The Hurricanes defence looked increasingly vulnerable as the hungry Highlanders found their stride with Ellison latching onto the end of Slade chip to race over the line and extend the lead to 13 inside the opening quarter.
The men from Dunedin could do little wrong as they continued to work through the phases in opposition territory which led to Elliot Dixon breaking off the back of the maul before Smith crossed in a third try as the Highlanders asserted their authority on the tie.
With half time fast approaching the Hurricanes found some resilience in the form of Ash Dixon who slipped over the line before Barrett added the conversion to reduce the deficit to 14 points. However, it was the Highlanders who were to have the last word as Poki raced down the wing after the siren to touch down a bonus-point try to end a dominant first period for the visitors.
Following the restart, Slade dissected the uprights once again to open up a 22-point lead for the Highlanders as the Hurricanes handling error count continued to mount.
The tables turned ten minutes into the second period when indiscipline at the breakdown resulted in Smith being sent to the sin bin leaving the Highlanders a man down.
Prop Ben Franks was the first to take advantage for the Hurricanes as he touched down before Julian Savea raced home minutes later to reduce the deficit to just eight.
As the Highlanders returned to full strength they regain control of the open ended encounter with Gear wrong footing Barrett with some dazzling footwork to score a fifth try before Dixon added number six as the visitors recuperated their 22-point lead.
The Hurricanes refused to bow out on a whimper as they launched another inspired comeback with two tries in as many minutes with Chris Smylie and James Broadhurst crossing as the hosts secured their bonus point.
Barrett slotted another three-pointer to take the Hurriances within five but the hosts ultimately fell short with the siren sounding to end an enthralling tie.