Highlanders win Cake Tin arm-wrestle
Highlanders win Cake Tin arm-wrestleSHARE
The Highlanders upset the Hurricanes 18-16 in a dour Super Rugby arm-wrestle in Wellington on Friday.
While there was very little aesthetical value in the game, the result means the Highlanders overtake both the Hurricanes and Crusaders in the standings.
The home team, the Hurricanes, scored the only try of a match in which kicking was at a premium – with Highlanders flyhalf Hayden Parker kicking five penalties and a match-winning drop-goal 15 minutes from time.
Not only did he contribute all his team's points, but the Highlanders No.10 was flawless off the kicking tee.
After Parker put them ahead late in the game, the Highlanders simply shut up shop in the face of a late Hurricanes onslaught to take the points.
There were a few nervous moments – including a TMO inquiry, when the match official ruled that Hurricanes replacement hooker Ash Dixon had interfered with a defender and awarded a penalty to the Highlanders, instead of what could have been a match-winning try to the home team.
The Hurricanes will question the decision of the TMO to rule out the try, but television replays clearly showed Dixon pulling Highlanders scrumhalf Aaron Smith down to the ground on the wrong side of the ruck – leaving a gap for Perenara to flop over.
And the Hurricanes will rue two missed Andre Taylor penalties in the second half, the second a relatively easy kick with eight minutes on the clock.
The two sides were locked at 6-6 late in the first half, after Beauden Barrett (seventh and 26th minutes) and Parker (15th and 33rd minutes) traded penalties.
TJ Perenara scored the only try of the match two minutes from half-time – after he slapped rival Aaron Smith's arm and the ball was spilled. The TMO also had a good look at this one, but ruled that the ball was 'knocked backwards' – although there is a law that suggests you are not allowed to slap/knock the ball out of an opponent's hands.
Andre Taylor took over the kicking duties from an injured Barrett and Parker added a third penalty as the Hurricanes held a 13-9 lead at the break.
Parker slotted a penalty three minutes after the restart, Taylor kicked one a few minutes later and Parker made it a one-point game with his fifth penalty in the 51st minute.
Then, in the 64th minute, Parker slotted a drop-goal to edge the Highlanders ahead for the first time and they hung on for the win.
Man of the match: You can always bank on players like Andre Taylor and Conrad Smith to add value, while Jeffery Toomaga-Allen was the most productive forward. TJ Perenara also made Aaron Smith's life a nightmare and scored the only try after managing to disrupt his opponent's pass. Malakai Fekitoa was exposed once, but recovered quickly and had a good day at the office. Loose forwards Nasi Manu and Shane Christie were also good value. However, this was an easy pick – Highlanders flyhalf Hayden Parker's kicking game kept his team within striking distance and then he landed the match-winning drop-goal.
For the Hurricanes:
Pens: Barrett 2, Taylor
For the Highlanders:
Pens: Parker 5
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Brad Shields, 22 Chris Smylie, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Jason Emery, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Aki Seuli, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Peterson (New Zealand)