By Jake Beleski
Hurricanes 41 Highlanders 15
Nine of the last 10 matches between the Hurricanes and Highlanders had been won by seven points or less, but the Hurricanes bucked that trend in emphatic style on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes ran in seven tries — including five in the second half — in a dominant display at Westpac Stadium.
A tight first half showed little sign of what was to come, and it was No 8 Ardie Savea who got the home team on the board when he crossed from a rolling maul.
The Highlanders took their only lead of the match on the half hour mark, when replacement centre Matt Faddes crossed from a simple scrum move on the Hurricanes’ line.
It was a soft try, and seemed to kick the Hurricanes into action.
Their reply was immediate, and fullback Jordie Barrett was the orchestrator as he executed a perfectly-weighted cross-kick that came straight out of his brother Beauden’s playbook.
Second five-eighth Ngani Laumape was on hand to cross in the corner and complete the first half scoring.
The second half was a more open contest, and the Hurricanes wasted no time extending their advantage.
Beauden Barrett took the opportunity to show his younger sibling he’s still capable of executing his own cross-kick, and the ball eventually found centre Matt Proctor from a freakish Jordie Barrett flick-pass, allowing him to scamper away in just the 42nd minute.
The Highlanders crossed a couple of minutes later through flanker Elliot Dixon to close the gap to 17-15, but from there it was one-way traffic.
Highlanders’ fullback Ben Smith had only just returned from a two-week concussion layoff, and the sight of Laumape rounding Marty Banks and heading towards him would have been the last thing he wanted to deal with.
Laumape, a former rugby league player who has been a dominant force with ball in hand this season, steamrolled his way through Smith with ease to secure his second try.
Some beautiful interplay between backs and forwards on the left flank put Julian Savea away for a try minutes later, before his partner on the other wing, Vince Aso, crossed for two tries in the final 15 minutes to put the result beyond doubt.
It was an important win for the Hurricanes following last week’s loss to the Chiefs, and they will now enjoy a weekend off before taking on the Reds in Brisbane on April 1.
Scorers: Hurricanes 41 (N. Laumape 2, V. Aso 2, A. Savea, M. Proctor, J. Savea tries; B. Barrett 2 con, J. Barrett con) Highlanders 15 (M. Faddes, E. Dixon tries; M. Banks con, F. Smith pen).