GARETH DUNCAN watched wing Julian Savea score a 74th-minute try to clinch the Hurricanes a 26-20 comeback victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The match-winning try from the Hurricanes speedster was a fantastic effort. After a poor tactical kick from Highlanders reserve scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan, the visitors had a late opportunity to counterattack. After spreading the ball wide through the backs, Savea broke the opposition’s defensive line, brushed off two attempted tackles and outran the covering defence to dive over in the corner.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett then slotted the difficult conversion to finish the match with a flawless goal-kicking display (six from six). This forced a then fatigued Highlanders outfit, who had just returned from their South African tour during the week, to search for a converted try for victory at the death. They failed in their pursuit and the Hurricanes held on for a hard-fought, late win.
This fixture was expected to be an exciting attacking spectacle, but both teams adopted a strong tactical kicking game instead of an expansive approach to find favourable field position. The Highlanders did this effectively in the first half, and capitalised on their chances to score two tries via pivot Chris Noakes and flank Adam Thomson. Noakes added all the extras.
The Hurricanes remained within reach at half-time as Barrett kicked three penalties, which saw a 14-9 scoreline at the break in the hosts’ favour.
Noakes extended the Highlanders’ lead to eight points with an early three-pointer in the second stanza, before the Hurricanes hit right back with a controversial try. Flank Faifili Levave dotted down seconds after the kick-off, but replays showed that lock Jason Eaton was tackled into touch during the build-up. The officials missed this, and the try was allowed.
This created a tight finish to the game. Barrett and reserve flyhalf Mike Delany traded late penalties as the Highlanders held on to a slender advantage. Savea’s brilliant run then sealed an important away win – one that boosts the Hurricanes’ play-off hopes on the overall log.