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Hurricanes power up to secure key win

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Saturday, March 24, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Having been tied at 12-12 just after half-time, the home team's combination of intensity up front, working off the strength of powerhouse second five-eighths Ngani Laumape, finally wore down the Highlanders' defence with a virtuoso try to replacement wing Vince Aso and a second demonstration of try scoring hunger by Lam when scoring his second try.

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The robust agility of Lam was evidenced in his first half try to squeeze over in the corner with three defenders on him. His second, eight minutes from the end, sealed the win.

It was a simple blindside effort off a potent scrum which saw centurion halfback TJ Perenara run and pass to him while giving him sufficient room to get around marker, All Black Waisake Naholo, who had scored two tries himself, and reach out a long arm to put the ball down over the line.

Add to that a superb run of conversions for first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and a 51m penalty goal to Jordie Barrett and it was the complete night for the home team.

All the worst Highlanders' nightmares were evident six minutes into the game when Highlanders centre Rob Thompson put a grubber kick through to open space. Bearing down on the ball were two All Blacks, Beauden Barrett for the home team and Ben Smith for the Highlanders.

Whichever of them got the bounce was in with a chance of scoring and it was Barrett who got foot to ball to nudge it ahead, regather, step halfback Aaron Smith and put the foot down on his run to the line.

The try came after second five-eighths Ngani Laumape almost scored when kicking a grubber kick through to the goalline. However, the Highlanders' defence made an emphatic early statement by keeping the Hurricanes out.



Building their game after the Barrett try, the Highlanders gained more possession and with penalties coming their way they dictated play. It took a covering scything dive by prop Ben May, on a Highlanders' counter attack led by wing Tevita Li, to prevent an earlier try.

But from a solid build-up which saw locks Jackson Hemopo and Tom Franklin drive low at the line, the ball emerged for flanker Elliot Dixon who got a pass to Li whose long pass allowed Thompson to feed Naholo to score in the 19th minute.

All Black Ardie Savea was forced from the field with a rib injury just before halftime but was able to see Laumape ran wide after ruck ball was secured, dragging the defence with him before handing on to Lam for his first try.

The Highlanders drew level two minutes into the second half when second five-eighths Tei Walden slipped a grubber kick behind defenders and with Naholo running onto the ball, he toed it infield before picking up and sliding over the line to score.

Aso may not have had the amount of time he wanted in Super Rugby this year but he took a slim chance that came his way in the 64th minute to dive over in the corner with the only part of him on the ground being the two hands holding onto the ball.

It came after an inter-passing blindside move with Jordie Barrett, a move which demonstrated the fluency the Hurricanes had in their running game and which was denied the Highlanders.

Scorers: Hurricanes 29 (Beauden Barrett, Ben Lam 2, Vince Aso tries; Beauden Barrett 3 con; Jordie Barrett pen) Highlanders 12 (Waisake Naholo 2 tries; Lima Sopoaga con). HT: 12-5