Hurricanes sneak home as Chiefs draw with Highlanders

Wellington (AFP) –


A late penalty by Jordie Barrett ensured the Wellington Hurricanes held off a fast-finishing Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, while an Angus Ta'avao try on full-time saw the Waikato Chiefs draw 31-31 with the Otago Highlanders.

On a triple-header night, hooker Folau Faingaa bagged a hat-trick to be Super Rugby's top try-scorer this season as the ACT Brumbies edged the Auckland Blues 26-21 for their fourth win at Canberra in succession.

After the Hurricanes had scored four tries in a dynamic opening quarter to lead 26-0, the Rebels fought back to trail by just seven points with five minutes to go before Barrett's strike pushed the final score to a safe 29-19.

It was equally tense in Dunedin where big prop Ta'avao scored twice in the second half as the Chiefs clawed their way back from a 28-12 deficit in the final quarter of a fast-flowing clash.

The Hurricanes now sit six points in arrears of competition leaders Canterbury Crusaders while the Highlanders remain third in the New Zealand conference 11 points behind the 'Canes.

A blistering start by the Hurricanes saw them use their international firepower to put two converted tries on the board inside the opening eight minutes.

Ngani Laumape steam-rolled his way past three defenders while Beauden Barrett showed more finesse scoring from a standard double-around move.

Right wing Wes Goosen and Vaea Fifita also got on the scorecard as the Hurricanes feasted off a woeful defensive effort from the Rebels. But the momentum changed when the Australian side switched to a forward power game after the break.

Matt Phillip and Billy Meakes both charged over for tries before the powerful Rebels pack won turnover ball from a 'Canes defensive scrum and Reece Hodge scored.

After Jordie Barrett's penalty put the game beyond reach for the Rebels, they then missed the chance of a bonus point when a close-range Quade Cooper penalty just before the hooter went wide.

"It was a classic game of two halves," said Hurricanes captain Beauden Barrett.

"I'd hate to see the territory stats in that second half, but you have to give credit to the Rebels who came out firing in the second half and we can learn a lot from how we finished."

- Good platform -

The Highlanders and Chiefs traded tries in the first half with the Otago club turning with a 14-12 lead.

That blew out to 28-12 after tries from Matt Faddes and James Lentjes before the Chiefs' storming three-try finish, with Tyler Ardron also touching down alongside Ta'avao.

But despite the strong close, Chiefs scrum-half Brad Weber was not happy.

"We wanted to win and thought we were in with a serious chance in the dying minutes. But what a battle," he said.

The Brumbies had already beaten the Chiefs, Waratahs and Lions at home this year and the Blues became their latest scalp to put them joint top of the Australian conference with the Rebels.

"That was really pleasing, to come back after we sort of started slow," said skipper Christian Lealiifano. "Our forwards were massive tonight, they really stepped up and gave us a good platform."

It was a gutsy fightback after they went to the break trailing 12-15 after Thomas Faiane and Caleb Clarke got two early tries for the Blues.

The home team hauled themselves into the game when Blues prop Alex Hodgman was yellow carded. It gave them a crucial advantage and Faingaa scored from a driving maul then James Slipper powered over.

Another sin bin offence, to Ofa Tuungafasi for a ruck infringement, again opened the door in the second stanza with Faingaa bulldozering over for his second, from a lineout, before getting his third, and 10th for the season, on yet another driving maul with the Brumbies pack in dominant form.