Highlanders lose third straight game in Dunedin.
The Wellington Hurricanes defeated the Otago Highlanders 23-19 to consign the New Zealand conference cellar-dwellers to their third straight defeat in Dunedin.
The Hurricanes scored three tries to one after a slow start to make it two wins from four this Super 15 season.
“We were a little more direct and that’s what got us the points in the end,” captain Conrad Smith said after a win that helped boost the Hurricanes’ season following a victory over the Canterbury Crusaders last week.
Highlanders’ stand-in skipper Brad Thorn said the defeat was hard to take.
“To me it sucks, but nothing changes,” he said.
The Hurricanes dominated the opening stages and were rewarded when Conrad Smith crossed for a try after latching onto a smart Julian Savea pass after he was held up on the line, with Beauden Barrett missing the conversion.
Two penalties to injury-plagued fly-half Colin Slade, returning after a year on the sidelines following a broken leg, gave the Highlanders a 6-5 lead before Hurricanes’ prop Ben Franks scored a rare try.
Franks raced down the wing to collect a pass and swatted aside a tackle from Ben Smith, with Barrett adding the extras.
The Highlanders hit back immediately off the back of a poor Hurricanes scrum through Hosea Gear for a converted try to make it 13-12.
TJ Perenara believed he had another try for the Hurricanes just before half-time but the television official ruled he had been held up over the line.
A Slade penalty restored the Highlanders’ lead after the break before Perenara bolted from the base of a scrum and weaved his way past three defenders to cross the line for the Hurricanes.
The try proved decisive as the Highlanders failed to make up the deficit through penalties and lacked the firepower to break through the Hurricanes’ defence.