Friday night under the Dunedin roof was supposed to be Aaron Smith's celebratory match. Only, someone forgot to tell Jordie Barrett.
Playing in his favoured fullback role Barrett scored 30 points - the most in Super Rugby Aotearoa's short history - that included three tries, two sweetly-struck penalties from over 50 metres and three conversions.
For good measure Barrett pulled off a try-saving tackle on rookie Highlanders wing Freedom Vahaakolo in the first half and further asserted his influence with regular booming clearing kicks and spiral bombs.
Barrett wasn't the only reason the Hurricanes snapped a three-game losing run to bank their first win of the season - desperate defence played a key role, too - but he sure was a major factor.
Unlike last week, when they capitulated to blow a 19-point halftime lead against the Chiefs in Wellington, there was no second-half collapse from the Hurricanes. Barrett's first two tries established a 17-7 halftime advantage, and the visitors held on from there.
Two of Barrett's three tries came from brilliantly executed inside switch moves.
Smith's record-breaking match – the All Blacks halfback surpassed Ben Smith as the most capped Highlander of all time in his 154th appearance – did not go to plan. He ran out with son Luka and during a 63-minute shift had one sniping run. Smith sparked a brief second-half comeback with a quick tap for Connor Garden-Bachop's try, but the Highlanders will be disappointed they could not honour their co-captain with victory, instead slumping to 1-3 after coming off the bye week and a one-sided loss to the Blues.
Once on top the Hurricanes employed a smart kicking game by taking pressure off first five-eighth Orbyn Leger with Barrett, Salesi Rayasi and Ngani Laumape all used to drive the Highlanders back.
Ardie Savea led a strong defensive display that involved the Hurricanes making 85 more tackles and his speed from the ruck often got his side on the front foot. An upset victory will be a sense of relief for the Hurricanes, knowing they aren't as bad as previous results suggest, though trekking to Eden Park next week is no jaunt.
This was a disjointed display from the Highlanders. Nine times they ventured into the Hurricanes 22 and only three times they came away with points. Such poor execution is, in part due to the Hurricanes defence, but the Highlanders only had themselves to blame at times too.
It doesn't get any easier for Tony Brown's men next week, either, with a trip to Christchurch to face the undefeated Crusaders on the agenda.
By halftime, Brown must have been throwing his favoured cheese cutter hat against the wall after his men squandered chance after chance to crack the Hurricanes line.
In sustained attacking raids the Highlanders managed to blow at least four try-scoring opportunities. All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell dropped the ball over the line while attempting to slam it down after beating four defenders; Marino Mikaele-Tu'u was called for obstruction after charging off the back of the scrum five metres out.
Dane Coles, in his first match back from another calf issue, earned a crucial turnover penalty on his own line. And in one example of desperate, scrambling defence that defied the attitude of a winless side Barrett dragged Vahaakolo down inches short on the edge.
The Hurricanes had to survive a yellow card to prop Tyrel Lomax for coming in the side of a maul but they finally caved after referee Brendon Pickerill absurdly reversed a penalty – deeming Hurricanes flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi pushed Highlanders prop Ethan De Groot. The poor decision was made even worse when veteran lock Bryn Evans flopped over for the Highlanders' opening try.
Despite dominating possession, territory and running metres (452 to 173) the Highlanders were chasing the game from the outset.
Boosted by adding five kilograms to his frame, Highlanders lock Pari Pari Parkinson, in his first match of the season, impressed with strong ball carries and solid lineout work while Josh Ioane initially thrived in space after shifting from first five-eighth to fullback. Japanese loose forward Kazuki Himeno, on debut for the Highlanders, also left an impression off the bench.
Yet those individual performances will be of little consolation.
Hurricanes 30 (Jordie Barrett 3 tries; 3 cons, 3 pens)
Highlanders 19 (Bryn Evans, Connor Garden-Bachop, Thomas Umaga-Jensen tries; Josh Ioane 2 cons)