It would have been a sight for the All Blacks' selectors eyes to see flanker Ardie Savea, halfback TJ Perenara, first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, second five-eighths Ngani Laumape, fullback Ben Smith, No.8 Luke Whitelock and flanker Shannon Frizell all contribute significant hands in a thrilling encounter.
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Looking to steal a win from the fire the Highlanders had their chances in the last few moments. Only a desperate tackle by one of the stars of the evening, Savea on Hurricanes wing Tevita Li which saw him in touch before grounding the ball for a try.
They conceded a scrum penalty when the Hurricanes turned on the power and then replacement centre Rob Thompson sent a long pass intended for wing Matt Faddes into touch.
But ultimately with three penalties in the red zone after the final hooter, one of which resulted in Hurricanes lock James Blackwell being sin-binned and another seeing Laumape sent for an HIA, it was their third lineout throw that let them down when they failed to control the ball and the Hurricanes kicked the ball out for the win.
Opening at a frenetic pace it was the Hurricanes who looked most likely to score first after a turnover worked at the breakdown by Savea allowed Perenara break from his own 22m area. Perenara gave wing Ben Lam a chance for a break down the line, the move failing when a pass to fullback Chase Tiatia went to ground.
Under pressure the Highlanders turned the tide back with forward pressure nullifying the Hurricanes scrum that had a chance from five metres only to lose the ball. Smith chimed in with breaks along with second five-eighths Teihorangi Walden before a penalty conceded by the Hurricanes allowed the Highlanders to put their lineout drive to use.
But the Hurricanes immediately ran the ball back through their big guns with centre Jordie Barrett, Laumape, Beauden Barrett and Savea all contributing before it was Perenara who stormed in to pick up the ball from the base of the ruck to equalise within three minutes.
The Highlanders worked their way back into a strong attacking position and worked for gaps but in going to ground Li looked to flick the ball to a teammate only to see Savea grab the ball and run 60m to score for the teams to go to the break at 14-14.
???? Congratulations to @Tj_Perenara who has become the first halfback in #SuperRugby history to score 5?0? tries.#HIGvHUR pic.twitter.com/16aFlXj54V— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) April 5, 2019It turned out the first half was just an entrée. Once Barrett opened the scoring with a penalty goal, the Highlanders turned on the pressure and scrum power, in the Hurricanes goalmouth, resulted in enough space opening for Kayne Hammington to dash through a gap around the scrum to score.
Four minutes later it was the Highlanders' lineout seen to advantage in a chance from a penalty induced lineout which resulted in flanker James Lentjes going over in the maul.
It didn't sink the Hurricanes however. Three minutes later Lam fielded a kick and charged through three tackles and unloaded to who else but Savea and running on a crossfield tangent he stepped his way to a second try.
Then Beauden Barrett used a solid Hurricanes scrum to break the line and backhand an offload to Laumape who put his power to use, as well as his sidestep, to regain the lead with 15 minutes of the game remaining.
Scorers: Highlanders 28 (Shannon Frizell, Ash Dixon, Kayne Hammington, James Lentjes tries; Marty Banks 4 con) Hurricanes 31 (TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea 2, Ngani Laumape tries; Beauden Barrett 4 con, pen). HT: 14-14
FT | Have you got any nails left? @Hurricanesrugby hold on at the death for a courageous win over @Highlanders.#HIGvHUR pic.twitter.com/VzbiwZkfQv— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) April 5, 2019