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    Highlanders edge Hurricanes

    2013-07-06 11:22
    Wellington - The forgotten man of New Zealand rugby, Colin Slade, re-emerged in the Super Rugby limelight in Wellington on Saturday as the guiding hand in the Highlanders 49-44 win over the Hurricanes.

    The bonus-point victory, only the third success of the season for the Highlanders team, was enough to lift them off the bottom of the ladder while the Hurricanes remain 11th but slumped to their ninth defeat from 15 outings.

    With both sides out of contention for a place in the top-six play-offs they were at liberty to throw caution to the wind and the fast-paced spectacle at Westpac Stadium produced 11 tries and 93 points.

    The injury-jinxed Slade has slipped off the All Blacks selectors' radar since being forced out of the 2011 Rugby World Cup with a groin injury and then missing the 2012 year and the start of this season with a broken ankle.

    But he was an unmistakeable force against the Hurricanes as he steered the Highlanders to a 32-13 lead by half-time.

    He set up the Highlanders first two tries, played a role in their third and scored 15 points from three conversions and three penalties.

    The third penalty, early in the second half, came a minute after he defied his injury reputation and walked away from an horrific collision in which he took a blow to the face when contesting a high ball with Matt Proctor.

    After an early penalty exchange in which Beauden Barrett had the Hurricanes ahead 6-3, Slade launched the try-scoring blitz when he elected to run the Highlanders out of defensive trouble.

    He beat three before off-loading to Hosea Gear in a move which finished with Mose Tuiali'i scoring at the other end of the field.

    Minutes later, Slade again opened up the Hurricanes defence before putting through a chip kick for Tamati Ellison to score.

    The Highlanders third try came when Slade added his slight frame to a Highlanders forward drive which resulted in a try to scrum-half Aaron Smith.

    In the closing minutes before half-time Ash Dixon scored the Hurricanes first try and Kade Poki replied almost immediately for the Highlanders.

    The Hurricanes narrowed the gap to 27-35 in the second half with converted tries to Ben Franks and Julian Savea when the Highlanders were down to 14 men with Aaron Smith in the sin bin.

    In a frantic closing 15 minutes the Highlanders stretched their lead to 49-27 with converted tries to Gear and Elliot Dixon before the Hurricanes closing burst produced tries to Chris Smylie and James Broadhurst and a penalty by Beauden Barrett.

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