Friday, 07 March 2008 The Hurricanes held on to beat the Highlanders 10-6 in a tense round four Rebel Sport Super 14 encounter at Carisbrook in Dunedin on Friday night.
Dogged determination and a massive defensive effort provided the keys for a nail biting victory for the Hurricanes, time and again holding off the Highlanders in the second half to protect a fragile four-point lead that they had established midway through the first half.
It was a tremendously spirited performance from the Hurricanes who successfully defended their try line against a continuous wave of Highlanders attack throughout a scoreless second half, and in particular over a frantic five minutes of play when the Highlanders pressed extremely hard for a match winning try.
The Highlanders' final foray of ascendancy lasted 14 phases, but in the end it was the successful Hurricanes defence that won the day. The final match statistics showed that the home side enjoyed over 75 percent of possession, 60 percent of territory and spent 22 minutes of play camped inside the Hurricanes' 22 metre line. The Hurricanes made a total of 115 tackles to the Highlanders' 64.
The Hurricanes started well and took the lead in the sixth minute when first five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth kicked a penalty for offside Highlanders play.
Three minutes later it became 10-0 when blindside flanker Jerry Collins crossed for a superbly taken try after locks Jason Eaton and Craig Clarke combined on halfway to win a turnover. Slick passing and excellent support play enabled the ball to be quickly shifted through seven pairs of hands for Collins to score his sixth Super Rugby try.
Gopperth converted and the Hurricanes led 10-0 after as many minutes.
Highlanders fullback James Wilson answered with a penalty after 12 minutes, ahead of Hurricanes halfback Piri Weepu saving a likely Highlanders five-pointer when he wrenched the ball out of the grasp of Hghlanders right winger Paul Williams on the chalk.
This near-try proved one of several lost opportunities for the Highlanders, including three further penalties and an overall inability to score a try and capitalise on their wealth of possession and territory in the face of committed and consistent Hurricanes tackling
Wilson was successful with a second penalty on 25 minutes to close the gap to 10-6, but that was the last scoring play in the game.
The Hurricanes' third win of the season temporarily lifted them into the top four of the Super 14 standings. Next week they travel to Canberra to play the Brumbies in round five, ahead of their bye the following week.
Scores: At Carisbrook Dunedin: Hurricanes 10 (Jerry Collins try; Jimmy Gopperth pen, con) Highlanders 6 (James Wilson 2 pen). HT Hurricanes 10-6.
The scoring (by minute):
6th: Jimmy Gopperth penalty. Hurricanes 3-0 9th: Jerry Collins try. Hurricanes 8-0
10th: Gopperth conversion. Hurricanes 10-0
13th: James Wilson penalty. Hurricanes 10-3
25th: Wilson penalty. Hurricanes 10-6
The Hurricanes team who played the Highlanders was:
15 Shannon Paku, 14 Ma'a Nonu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger. Reserves: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Willie Ripia, 22 Tane Tu'ipulotu.