Highlanders finish better for big win

Aaron Smith, of the Highlanders, runs the ball during his side’s Super Rugby Aotearoa pre-season...
Aaron Smith, of the Highlanders, runs the ball during his side’s Super Rugby Aotearoa pre-season match against the Hurricanes at Molyneux Park, Alexandra, yesterday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Highlanders came home like a bullet train to easily beat the Hurricanes in Alexandra last night.

The Highlanders won 35-12 after being behind 12-7 at the break.

The side stepped on the gas in the second half and ran into some gaps in the defence to score four converted tries.

The team used the ball better in the second half as the Hurricanes defence wilted in the stifling Alexandra heat.

Josh Ioane ran hard on to the ball and that got the Hurricanes defence out of step and eventually the gaps came.

The Highlanders lineout was all at sea in the first half and lacked accuracy but came good in the second half.

It came together so well that returning flanker James Lentjes helped himself to two tries from rolling mauls off lineouts in the last minutes.

The Highlanders were dangerous out wide a number of times and made good metres when they found the outside space.

They also won the first captain’s challenge at this level.

Hurricanes replacement winger Pepesana Patafilo had scored out wide but Highlanders captain Liam Coltman appealed to referee James Doleman that there had been an illegal truck and trailer.

It was correctly ruled out and instead of conceding a try the Highlanders got a penalty.

The Highlanders’ win was a complete reverse of the side’s first game last week, when it had been totally dominant in the first half only to concede 28 points in the second half to the Crusaders.

The side got more urgency into its game last night in Alexandra and managed to string the phases better, well led round the park by Ioane and halfback Folau Fakatava.

In the first half the Hurricanes were aggressive in attack and defence and the Highlanders were on the back foot for much of the period.

The Hurricanes had opened up the scoring with a try in the opening minutes. It moved the ball wide when the Highlanders were caught short. The ball was moved back inside and fullback Jordie Barrett found the ball in his hands with open territory in front of him and could not be caught to lodge the first points.

The Hurricanes continued to dominate the collision and it tried to get in behind the Highlanders defence.

The Highlanders scrambled well and stayed disciplined though the side’s lineout was doing it no favours with the ball often not going to the correct jumper, although it appeared the Hurricanes knew the home team’s calls.

Barrett then became the villain after Highlanders winger Jona Nareki had made a nice run down the left. Some in-passing had the Highlanders rushing on to attack but Barrett jumped through the ruck to kill the Highlanders ball.

He was rightly yellow carded but in the spirit of the pre-season was immediately replaced. That was a tad strange.The Highlanders, though, just got on with the game and a nice move off the back of the scrum resulted in a try to blindside flanker Shannon Frizell.

The Hurricanes had the final say, when Barrett came back on and made a half break to in-pass to Ngani Laumape to score. Barrett’s conversion gave his side a 12-7 lead at halftime.

Highlanders v Hurricanes

Molyneux Park, yesterday
Highlanders 35
James Lentjes 2, Shannon Frizell, Ngani 
Punivai, Connor Garden Bachop tries; 
Josh Ioane 4 con; Mitch Hunt con
Hurricanes 12
Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape tries; 
Barrett con
Halftime: 12-7 Hurricanes
Crowd: 6000

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