Savea’s late winner sinks Highlanders

27 May 2016
Savea’s late winner sinks Highlanders

The Hurricanes secured a fifth home victory when they held off the Highlanders 27-20 in Wellington after scoring a late match-winning try.

In similar fashion to the last sixteen contests, between these two sides, all were decided within seven points or less. 

Despite the scoreline not reflecting a big score, it was a fast paced affair which delivered quite a few big hits and some skilfull inter-passing from both sides, in a replay of last year's Super Rugby final which was incidently played at the same venue.

The 'Canes outscored the defending champions by three tries to two. Tries for the home side came via a brace from Ardie Savea and Brad Shields while Lima Sopoaga and Daniel Lienert-Brown crossed the whitewash for the Highlanders.

Beuden Barrett was successful with three conversions and two penalties while Sopoaga's personal tally of eleven included two conversions and a penalty to go with his first half try.

The Hurricanes broke the defensive line with ease which saw them beat 28 defenders, 21 more than the visitors' seven. This compounded by the poor defensive effort from the defending champions, missing 28 tackles, allowed the 'Canes to gain 563 valuable metres.

Following a linebreak from full-back Cory Jane, the ever present All Black Sevens player, Ardie Savea scooped up the ball to run in for his and team's first try of the match, Barrett added the extras and handed the home side an early 7-0 lead.

Barrett showed his class at the fly-half, his excellent visionary skills allowed him to free up the dangerous Hurricanes backline which resulted in them advancing to within metres following a few attacking phases deep inside their opponents' 22. Brad Shields powered over from close range for the Wellington outfit's second converted try.

Quick recycled ball allowed the Highlanders' powerful runners, like All Black midfielder Malakai Fekitoa and powerhouse wing Waisake Naholo, to catch the 'Canes defence off-guard which resulted in Sopoaga sliding over for the visitors' first score, the pivot converted his own try and this reduced the lead to 14-7 which looked set to be the half-time score.

But it was his opposite number that had the final say in the opening 40, Barrett slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time as the players headed into the tunnel with the home side comfortably in the lead on 17-7.

The visitors made their intentions clear after the break as Sopoaga continued to command matters brilliantly, on attack, the All Black fly-half's invaluable tactical kicking ability and excellent vision, along with the their clinical breakdown discipline, saw prop Daniel Lienert-Brown muscled over for the Highlanders first try, which the fly-half converted. The Highlanders levelled the scores in the 52nd minute after the home side were penalised at the ruck, Sopoaga converted from close range that took the score to 17-all.

It was in the last few minutes that the deadlock was finally broken following a penalty apiece from replacement fly-half Marty Banks and Barrett, respectively, that took the score to 20-all as the final five minutes approached.

It was when loose forward Ardie Savea powered over for his second try and the winning points for the home side and Barrett's conversion allowed the Hurricanes temporary move to within two points of the New Zealand Conference table leaders, the Chiefs, with the latter still having a game in hand against the Waratahs.

The Scorers:

For Hurricanes:

Tries: A Savea 2, Shields

Cons: Barrett 3

Pens: Barrett 2

For Highlanders:

Tries: Sopoaga, Lienert-Brown

Cons: Sopoaga 2

Pens: Sopoaga, Banks

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reggie Goodes

Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, Jamison 21 Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown

Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Teihorangi Walden

Referee: Mike Fraser

Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Jamie Nutbrown

TMO: Aaron Peterson