Vodacom Super 14
Hurricanes edge Highlanders
Dunedin - The Hurricanes preserved a faint chance of reaching the Super 14 semi-finals by beating the Highlanders 33-31 on Saturday in a match in which both teams had four-try bonus points by half time.
Fifty points were scored in the first half – The Hurricanes led 26-24 at halftime - and each side scored a further try in the second half before the Hurricanes sealed their fifth win from 10 games.
Hurricanes flyhalf Aaron Cruden scored a try and set up two others.
The Hurricanes need to win all of their remaining games, against the Chiefs, Reds and the Waratahs, to have any hope of reaching the semifinals.
The narrow difference between the teams Saturday ultimately was Cruden - the New Zealand under-20 flyhalf. He kicked four conversions while Highlanders fullback Israel Dagg managed three.
"It was reasonable fun in the first half but in the second half we lost a bit of structure," Hurricanes captain Andrew Hore said. "We're disappointed about letting them back in the game in the second spell rather than putting them out of it."
The first half was full of tit-for-tat scoring with first the Hurricanes touching down, then the Highlanders replying.
In the second half both teams lost their momentum until Hurricanes centre Ma'a Nonu scored a 70th-minute try. Even then, the Highlanders hit back with a try to substitute Bronson Murray in the third minute of stoppage time.
"The key messages tonight were to enjoy ourselves and to play with attitude for 80 minutes and scoring a try in the final minute was pleasing," Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan said.
Hurricanes flanker Karl Lowe scored in the third minute and Cruden converted for a 7-0 lead but the Highlanders hit back within five minutes with a try to Cowan, converted by Dagg.
Hurricanes lock Michael Paterson put his side ahead 12-7 after 10 minutes but, again the home side hit back with a try to backrower Alando Soakai. Canes scrumhalf Tyson Keats increased the lead with a 22nd-minute try but the Highlanders responded through winger Ben Smith.
Cruden crossed for the Hurricanes in the 36th minute but the Highlanders got a try before halftime via prop Jason Rutledge. Scorers:Highlanders
Tries: Jimmy Cowan, Alando Soakai, Ben Smith, Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray.
Conversions: Israel Dagg (3). Hurricanes
Tries: Karl Lowe, Michael Paterson, Tyson Keats, Aaron Cruden, Ma’a Nonu.
Conversions: A. Cruden (3), P. Weepu (1).Teams:Highlanders:
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Kenny Lynn, 12. Jason Shoemark, 11. Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10. Michael Hobbs, 9. Jimmy Cowan (captain), 8. Steven Setephano, 7. Alando Soakai, 6. Adam Thomson, 5. Hayden Triggs, 4. Josh Bekhuis, 3. Clint newland, 2. Jason Rutledge, 1. Chris King.
Substitutes: 16. Peter Mirrielees, 17. Bronson Murray, 18. Joe Tuineau, 19. John Hardie, 20. Scott Cowan, 21. Robbie Robinson, 22. James PatersonHurricanes:
15. Cory Jane, 14. Tamati Ellison, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Tyson Keats, 8. Rodney So’oialo, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Victor Vito, 5. Michael Paterson, 4. Bryn Evans, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (captain), 1. John Schwalger
Substitutes: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Jacob Ellison, 18. Jeremy Thrush, 19. Nick Crosswell, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Jason Kawau, 22. Jason Kawau