The Hurricanes took another step towards hosting a Vodacom Super 14 semi-final when they beat the Highlanders 29-13 at the House of Pain on Sunday.
The ‘Canes scored five tries to two and would have recorded a far more emphatic victory had flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth not missed all seven of his attempts at goal. In the end it was left to replacement David Holwell to add the extras to the final two tries of the afternoon.
The Highlanders got off to a great start when flyhalf Callum Bruce took a quick tap penalty from 5m out, but the visitors hit back immediately with Ma’a Nonu putting midfielder partner Tana Umaga into space.
Gopperth’s shocking kicking effort had a negative impact on the rest of his game and he dropped a simple pass from scrumhalf Piri Weepu in his own 22. Carl Hayman picked up the loose ball and passed to fellow Highlanders prop Clarke Dermody who scored the try.
The Highlanders led 13-5 at the break and the ‘Canes responded by replacing Gopperth with Holwell.
Four tries from second-rower Jason Eaton, winger Lome Fa’atau and fullback Isaia Toeava (2) saw them dominate the second half and rack up 24 unanswered points.
The ‘Canes now head to Canberra to play the in-form Brumbies, while the Highlanders have a bye before facing the Waratahs in Dunedin.
Highlanders – Tries: Callum Bunce, Clarke Dermody. Penalty: Ben Blair.
Hurricanes – Tries: Tana Umaga, Isaia Toeava (2), Jason Eaton, Lome Fa’atau. Conversions: David Holwell (2).