WELLINGTON – Beauden Barrett kicked a last-gasp penalty to give Wellington Hurricanes a 25-22 victory over Otago Highlanders on Friday, as try-machine Ngani Laumape maintained his dominant form.
Both sides scored three tries in blustery Wellington weather, with Laumape crossing twice for the Hurricanes to make it five in two matches for the All Black centre.
The scores were locked 22-22 at the final siren and the match hinged on a penalty awarded against Highlanders' lock Jackson Hemopo for hands in the ruck, which Barrett slotted nervelessly from in front of the posts.
“It was a real ding-dong battle,” Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. “We were getting bullied for the first 30 minutes and our discipline was terrible.
“But we showed good character and I'm proud of the boys' ticker to stay with it for 80 minutes.”
The Highlanders had the edge over their New Zealand rivals in the forwards but failed to close out the match after leading 22-14 early in the second half.
“Obviously the effort was there but we'll have to be a bit better going up against (defending champions) the Crusaders next week,” skipper Ben Smith said.
The Highlanders made a poor start when Thomas Umaga-Jensen fumbled the ball at kick off, sparking a period of sustained Hurricanes pressure.
But the visitors slowly wrested momentum and Aaron Smith scored after 10 minutes off the back of a dominant Highlanders scrum.
Ngani Laumape, fresh from a hat-trick of tries against ACT Brumbies last week, hit back with a five pointer set up by a run from Liam Mitchell and an inch-perfect pass from TJ Perenara.
He powered over for a second to put the Hurricanes up 14-8 at half-time, collecting Barrett's cross-field kick then evading three defenders to cross the tryline.
Barrett gifted an intercept to Sio Tomkinson with a loose pass after the restart, putting the Highlanders up 15-14.
They extended the lead with a Liam Coltman try from a lineout drive only for Ben Lam to lock up the scores 22-22 when he found space out wide and crossed in the corner.
Barrett was unable to kick the conversion from the sideline but made amends with his match-winning penalty.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)