Highlanders slip to late loss against Hurricanes

Hurricanes loose forward Vaea Fifita is tackled by Highlanders co-captain Luke  Whitelock in the...
Hurricanes loose forward Vaea Fifita is tackled by Highlanders co-captain Luke Whitelock in the Super Rugby game at Westpac Stadium in Wellington last night. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Robbed at the death - this one was hard to swallow.

The Hurricanes beat the Highlanders 25-22 with the last kick of the game in Wellington last night.

Referee Damon Murphy found a penalty for a Highlanders hand in the ruck, and from straight out in front, Beauden Barrett knocked over the penalty.

It was rough justice for the Highlanders. Their forwards dominated the match throughout and ruled the roost in the set piece. The pack stole lineout ball and the scrum was strong.

But they could not shake the Hurricanes off, and in a game of fine margins, the Highlanders just could not get things to fall their way. The Hurricanes had enough class and grit to win, though a draw would have been a fairer result.

One has to question some of the rulings from Australian referee Murphy. His handling of the offside line was all over the place, and he was penalising the Highlanders scrum late in the game when it was clearly in the ascendancy.

A blatant head-high tackle from Hurricanes replacement prop Alex Fidow was a yellow card at the very least. And let's not forget a slap-down from Vaea Fifita early in the second half which was obviously intentional.

Sure, the sour grapes are out - but Murphy was poor in many facets.

The conditions were far from ideal for the game and all the best for the Highlanders were in the forward pack, where lock Josh Dickson, flanker James Lentjes and fellow loose forward Jackson Hemopo turned in top efforts.

The Highlanders hauled themselves back into the game in the second half and took a handy lead with a quarter of the game left.

First, centre Sio Tomkinson intercepted a poor Beauden Barrett pass and ran 30m to score.

Just before the hour mark, the Highlanders had a lineout 7m out. Liam Coltman threw it in and promptly joined the back of the maul to drive over the line and score a classic mauling try.

A Marty Banks conversion put the men in blue eight points ahead.

The Highlanders scrum was looking to get on top and kept the pressure on but the Hurricanes hung tough.

In the first half, the home team had a scrum on its line after 10 minutes and hit reverse gear. Hurricanes No 8 Ardie Savea picked the ball up but was immediately stopped in his tracks by halfback Aaron Smith.

The Highlanders forwards then simply walked over the ball, leaving Smith to pick up it up and score the try.

The Hurricanes were sloppy with the ball in hand before, on the 25-minute mark, scoring a try out of nowhere.

A nice pass from TJ Perenara freed up big lock Liam Mitchell. He ran 30m before feeding Laumape, and 10m out from the line, he just could not be stopped.

The Highlanders, who were playing into a stiff wind for most of the first half, went behind when Barrett kicked the conversion but were quickly back in front when Josh Ioane kicked a penalty from straight out in front.

Just before halftime, lock Pari Pari Parkinson took a heavy knock in the tackle and was forced off the field for a head check. He did not return.

The Hurricanes took the lead right on halftime. A poor clearance by Ioane ended up in the hands of Beauden Barrett and a nice cross kick went to Laumape and he went over to score.

Super Rugby
The scores
Hurricanes   25
Ngani Laumape 2, Ben Lam tries, Beauden Barrett 2 con, 2 pen
Highlanders   22
Aaron Smith, Sio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman tries, Marty Banks 2 con, Josh Ioane pen
HT: 14-8 Hurricanes

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