Unstoppable Hurricanes leave it late, dominating injury-ravaged Highlanders

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Associated Press

Centre Ngani Laumape scored two tries and fullback Jordie Barrett provided two brilliant try assists as the Hurricanes put the defence of their Super Rugby title back on track Saturday with a 41-15 win over the Highlanders.

After last weekend's 26-18 loss to the Chiefs, the Wellington-based Hurricanes needed a home win to stay in touch with the leaders in the New Zealand conference and achieved it, by seven tries to two, though they had to work hard against a Highlanders team missing at least 12 players through injury.

The Hurricanes trailed briefly, 8-5, in the first half and led by only 10-8 at halftime but scored five tries in the second spell to claim a bonus point as the Highlanders lost some of their structure when forced to go to their bench.

"I think discipline was a major factor and our defence tonight was outstanding," Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. "We really got off the line this week and put them under a bit of pressure.

"Those were things we worked on during the week and they really paid dividends tonight."

The Hurricanes scored first through backrower Ardie Savea but a try to replacement centre Matt Faddes gave the Highlanders an 8-5 lead after 31 minutes.

Jordie Barrett produced two brilliant pieces of skill on either side of halftime to create tries and set the Hurricanes on course to an emphatic victory.

He first put in a pin-point cross kick which led to Laumape's first try in the 35th minute, then a behind-the-back pass which created a try for centre Matt Procter immediately after halftime.

Elliot Dixon scored a try for the Highlanders which cut the lead to 17-15 after 44 minutes but from then on it was one-way traffic as the Highlanders' defence weakened.

Laumape scored his second try in the 50th minute, winger Julian Savea scored another in the 62nd minute then Vince Aso finished with a late double to leave the Highlanders without excuses.

"I think we played some good rugby in the first half but in the second half we probably just didn't take our opportunities," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said.

"Mistakes crept in and we couldn't put that pressure on.

"They forced the errors that we made and they feed off peoples' errors and really punish teams."

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