As with all games under the Dunedin roof, this one did not disappoint.

This venue, with its pristine conditions, always produces frantic, end to end attacking raids, especially when two Kiwi teams come to blows. Tonight was no different.

When breaks in play arrived everyone welcomed the chance to place hands on heads and suck in some deep breaths before resuming frenetic, lung-sapping bursts.

Highlight reels will be jammed with the counter-attacking breaks with both teams running in four tries but in the end it was won, three minutes into added time, when the Highlanders bombed a lineout five metres out from the Hurricanes line.


Earlier this season in Wellington the Hurricanes snatched a late victory with a Beauden Barrett penalty.

This time they just held on.

The final 10 minutes was a case of waiting for someone to stand up and ice the game.

Barrett stole the momentum with a brilliant offload that sent Ngani Laumape through for a try that regained the lead.

Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes celebrates his try. Photo / Photosport
Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes celebrates his try. Photo / Photosport

The Hurricanes then repelled a rolling maul 10m out from their line, only for TJ Perenara to lose the ball while attempting to pick it up from the back of the resulting scrum with one hand.

Against the tide, the Hurricanes produced a huge scrum to win a crucial penalty with four minutes left but referee Glen Jackson awarded the Highlanders three successive penalties on fulltime and sent Liam Mitchell to the bin.

From there, the Highlanders really should have won. Claim the lineout and logic says they would. But, as has been the theme of their campaign, they could not execute when it mattered most.

Ardie Savea was the standout for the Hurricanes. Turnovers, an intercept try just before halftime, two left foot steps on the way to his second and a try-saving covering tackle on Tevita Li left the Highlanders asking if there is anything the All Blacks openside can't do.


All Blacks blindside contenders Shannon Frizell and Vaea Fifita engaged in a combative contest throughout but, in a quality loose forward battle, Savea had no peer. He was superb.

In the context of their season, this could be a crushing blow to the Highlanders. They have now lost four in a row and are already missing All Blacks Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo.

The Hurricanes will take the points after a one-sided home loss to the Crusaders last week and know they were again fortunate to escape when not nearly at their best.

Rob Thompson of the Highlanders is tackled by Ricky Riccitelli of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty
Rob Thompson of the Highlanders is tackled by Ricky Riccitelli of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty

The Hurricanes were lethal on the counter attack but they lacked patience and blew several early chances with the last pass option often leading to inaccurate finishing.

Chase Tiatia overran Ben Lam on the breakout to butcher a certain try, and Reed Prinsep dropped the ball five metres out.

The Hurricanes also turned down two shots at goal – six points – and lost three of their own lineouts with Ricky Riccitelli battling to hit his targets. It was, again, symptomatic of their set piece struggles this season with the Highlanders having the upper hand at scrums, too.

The Highlanders, to their credit, scrambled brilliantly on defence. Whether it was Tom Franklin, James Lentjes or Luke Whitelock they got back and made telling tackles at just the right time.

While largely on the back foot, the Highlanders took their opportunities. Their aggressive counter-rucking caused the Hurricanes problems and when they were in range, they struck through Frizell and Dixon.

Just as he did last week, Hurricanes fullback Tiatia endured another difficult evening. In addition to the squandered chance in the third minute he dropped a simple kick return and was stepped for Kayne Hammington's try.

The Hurricanes looked much better when Matt Proctor came off the bench into centre and Jordie Barrett shifted to his more accustomed fullback role.

John Plumtree will know his men must improve and he will be eternally thankful for that one final botched lineout.

Hurricanes 31 (Ardie Savea 2, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape tries, Beauden Barrett 4 cons, pen)

Highlanders 28 (Shannon Frizell, Ash Dixon, Kayne Hammington, James Lentjes tries, Marty Banks 4 cons)

HT: 14-14