Hurricanes pip Highlanders in Super Rugby

Flanker Ardie Savea has scored in the final minute to break the deadlock as the Hurricanes downed Super Rugby champions the Highlanders 27-20 in Wellington.

At the same venue where the Highlanders upset the Hurricanes to land the title in 2015, the southerners had been holding out in the face of a strong finish by their hosts.

With the score at 20-20 and seven minutes remaining, fly-half Beauden Barrett had a chance to push the home side ahead but put his penalty attempt wide.

Then, just more than a minute to go, Savea was held up over the line, but he made no mistake from the ensuing five-metre scrum to grab his second try.

The result on Friday night means the Hurricanes go above the Highlanders into fourth spot in the Australasian group.

Rain fell at kick-off, making for greasy conditions at Westpac Stadium.

The Highlanders made the stronger start and it was against the run of play that they conceded the first try.

The home side produced a swift counter-attack from deep and, just as the move was about to break down, Savea snapped up the loose ball to score.

They pulled further ahead when blindside flanker Brad Shields powered his way over after a planned move off a scrum.

Barrett, on his 25th birthday, added his second conversion and it was suddenly 14-0.

The Highlanders struck back when given their own attacking scrum and five-five Lima Sopoaga provided the finish by touching down.

Sopoaga then produced an outrageous kick – over his head with his back to the opposition – that almost led to another try.

But it was the Hurricanes who grabbed the next points, a Barrett penalty giving them a 17-7 half-time lead.

By the 50-minute mark, the Highlanders had drawn level.

Lock Tom Franklin’s charge-down of halfback TJ Perenara’s kick gave the visitors the field position to send prop Dan Lienert-Brown over.

Sopoaga landed the conversion and then a penalty to tie up the scores.

The contest remained tight as the teams traded penalties, Marty Banks, having come on for Sopoaga, again drawing the Highlanders level midway through the second spell.

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