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Highlanders hold off Hurricanes in Dunedin

Friday, March 21, 2014

Update: 9:51PM A fast and furious finish wasn't enough for the Hurricanes to steal an unlikely Super Rugby victory in Dunedin on Friday, the Highlanders holding on for a narrow 35-31 win at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Despite running in three tries in the last 15 minutes, including two from five-eighth Beauden Barrett, the Hurricanes still fell frustratingly short in their fourth defeat from five matches this season.

The Highlanders, still smarting from last week's 31-29 loss to the Western Force, went into halftime with an 18-9 lead courtesy of Lima Sopoaga's accurate boot as indiscipline at the breakdown cost the Hurricanes.

Led by former All Black Brad Thorn, the Highlanders forwards attacked the Hurricanes with some barnstorming runs close in balanced by intelligent kicking from inside centre Phil Burleigh to get behind the advantage line.

Although the Hurricanes lost Samoan international Jack Lam to concussion early in the first half, their scrum still managed to dominate.

But that proved increasingly irrelevant as the second half wore on. Burleigh scored the first try 10 minutes after the restart from a sizzling Ben Smith break, carried on by Aaron Smith with a finely timed offload for Burleigh to touch down between the posts.

The Hurricanes' accuracy was questionable at best, and they paid the price five minutes later as inside centre Hadleigh Parkes threw a cutout pass which sat up perfectly for Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne's runaway try.

Sopoaga again landed the extras, and the Highlanders went out to 35-12 lead as the hour mark ticked over.

The Hurricanes, who scored nine tries in their 60-27 win over the Cheetahs in Wellington last week, only managed their first try of the game with 15 minutes remaining.

Ben Franks barged over from close range, but the Hurricanes still trailed by 16 points.

With Jarrod Hoeata sinbinned in the 68th minute and the Highlanders down to 14 men, the Hurricanes attacked with renewed vigour and scored the try of the match in a 90m effort.

Replacement fullback Andre Taylor sparked the movement 10m out from his own line, linked with halfback TJ Perenara, who found Barrett out wide for the try.

With just a minute remaining, the Hurricanes forced the turnover and Barrett hared away for his second to secure a much-needed bonus point.

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