The curtain has come down on the Super Rugby Aotearoa season for the Hurricanes and Highlanders, but not before they played out one final frantic number.
With nothing on the line but pride in their match in Wellington on Friday night, the two teams played an at-times chaotic contest. Players were sent to the sin bin, a captain’s challenge by the Highlanders resulted in a penalty against the Highlanders, nine tries were scored and, ultimately, the Hurricanes came away with a consolation 41-22 win.
It brought an end to a forgettable campaign for the Hurricanes, who came into the match with just one win. However, with Super Rugby Transtasman approaching, the performance will provide them with something to build on as they turn their attention to Australian foe.
“Obviously we haven’t had a great year, but I’m really proud of the last month and the way we’ve turned up,” Dane Coles said after the game.
“The results have been really close, so to get one tonight shows that we can do it. I’m just happy for the boys and the crew to finally get a win and reward all that work we’ve been putting in.”
The play was free-flowing from the outset. After the Highlanders took an early 3-0 lead, the Hurricanes showed their intention to play through the hands, with a good passage of running rugby resulting in the first try of the game to No 8 Devan Flanders. Flanders was a key feature in the Hurricanes performance on both sides of the ball, continuing his impressive season.
Both teams were reduced to 14 men midway through the opening half when Coles and Highlanders No 10 Mitchell Hunt were shown yellow cards for a scuffle.
The Highlanders took the lead through tries to lock Josh Dickson and wing Jona Nareki, holding a 17-15 lead at the break.
That was quickly eliminated when play resumed, with the Hurricanes putting their noses back in front through second five-eighth Ngani Laumape who was first to get to the ball after a lovely left-footed chip on the wing by fullback Jordie Barrett.
The hosts made the most of the open spaces created by both sides playing with some freedom and added to their score with a try to flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi.
The Highlanders returned serve through Ash Dixon, but the Hurricanes began to take over through the final 20 minutes – running in tries through reserve flanker Brayden Iose and Salesi Rayasi to seal just their second win of the season.
Hurricanes 41 (Devan Flanders, Dane Coles, Ngani Laumape, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Brayden Iose, Salesi Rayasi tries; Jordie Barrett 4 cons, pen)
Highlanders 22 (Josh Dickson, Jona Nareki, Ash Dixon tries; Sam Gilbert con, Mitchell Hunt con, pen)
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