Slick Hurricanes outclass Highlanders

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Saturday, March 18, 2017    Getty Images

The Highlanders toiled hard throughout the contest but couldn’t match the Hurricanes superior skill level as the home side crossed for seven high quality tries.

Leading by just two points at the break, the Hurricanes piled on the points in the second half with both forwards and backs combining to outgun a Highlanders side missing over a dozen players to injury.

The Highlanders needed to throw everything at the Hurricanes to have a chance of victory in Wellington, and took the game to the defending champions in a frenetic opening 10 minutes.

In front of a 17,000 strong crowd, the Hurricanes defence remained firm before striking in their first opportunity in the Highlanders half. While their backline is among the most potent in the competition, it was the forwards that created the first try when Ardie Savea went over from a well-worked forward drive.

The Highlanders had three scoring opportunities in the first half and grabbed one through Matt Faddes but were thwarted by the Barrett brothers in their other two chances.

Jordie Barrett was impressive at fullback and showcased his playmaking ability in the second half when he set up two tries. The first was with a deft reverse pass to put centre Matt Proctor over while the second was through a well weighted chip kick to Ngani Laumape in the corner.

Elliot Dixon gave the Highlanders hope with a second half strike but the Hurricanes were not to be contained on their home turf.

Second five-eighth Ngani Laumape was particularly impressive with ball in hand. His second try was a brilliant effort when he stood up Marty Banks before running straight over Ben Smith to score.
The Hurricanes finished the second half onslaught with another top quality effort when replacement first five-eighth Otere Black chipped through for Vince Aso to grab a double. It was Aso’s sixth try of the season to put him at the top of the try-scoring ladder for 2017.

Hurricanes Captain Dane Coles said they had worked hard during the week to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Chiefs.

“Our discipline was a major factor and our defence was outstanding. We actually got off the line this week and put them under pressure. They were two things we really worked on this week.”

For the Hurricanes, the victory was the perfect response to last week’s loss to the Chiefs and sets the defending champions up well with a bye next week. The Highlanders have now lost three out of four and are left languishing at the bottom of the NZ Conference on five points.

Hurricanes 41 (Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape 2, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Vince Aso 2, tries, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett 2 con) Highlanders 15 (Matt Faddes, Eliott Dixon tries, Fletcher Smith pen, Marty Banks con)
HT: 10-8