Highlanders, Hurricanes win big in Super Rugby Pacific

March 25, 2023 GMT

DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — The injury-hit Highlanders conceded the first try of the match, then scored five of their own in the first half on the way to a 57-24 win over the Fijian Drua on Saturday in Super Rugby Pacific.

In another lopsided result, the Wellington-based Hurricanes ran in nine tries in a 59-0 win over Moana Pasifika at Auckland’s Mt. Smart Stadium. The final match Saturday was a closer affair, with the Melbourne Rebels holding on for a 40-34 home win over the Queensland Reds.

Scrumhalf Frank Lomani scored the opening try for the Drua after 14 minutes. But the Highlanders responded with four tries in 16 minutes through the middle of the first half, then added another just before the break to take a 33-12 lead to halftime.

All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored a sixth try in the fourth minute of the second half to increase the lead to 38-12, then Jonah Lowe made it 45-12 with the seventh in the 53rd.

Lomani scored his second try and kicked a conversion of a try to Tevita Ikaniveri as the Drua stayed in the match but a second try to Argentina import Martin Bogado and another to Cameron Millar gave the Highlanders a welcome bonus point and an emphatic win.

After starting the season with three straight losses they now have won their last two matches and move up to mid-table with the Drua who also have a 2-3 record.

“It’s been a long time coming for us to string a whole performance together and really build those moments,” Highlanders captain Billy Harmon said. “That’s what it’s all about this week, that execution to build our momentum and that’s what we’ve done.

“We know the Drua, they love to play that loose game and it’s easy to get into that loose game when you’re against it. But we just wanted to stick to our system and just play our game.”

The Highlanders’ plan for the match was disrupted by injuries, including the loss of two players only hours before the start of play.

They had to dig even deeper into their playing resources and rearrange the backline when replacement center Jake Te Hiwi had to leave the field injured after just 12 minutes.

Lomani scored only moments later and the Highlanders looked in trouble. But they had a resounding response as they ran in try after try before halftime.

The Hurricanes ran in tries to Joshua Moorsby, Brett Cameron and Cam Roigard to lead 19-0 at halftime at Wellington. Salesi Rayasi scored a second-half double while Kini Naholo, Ardie Savea, Hame Faiva and Peter Lakai also scored tries. Cameron had 19 points from a try and seven conversions.

At Melbourne, the Rebels took a 26-14 halftime lead after they recovered from a slow start. Both sides traded points until late into the game when Rebels lock Angelo Smith crossed the line with 13 minutes to go.

Scrumhalf Tate McDermott looked to have scored the winner for the Reds before the try was called back on video review, allowing the Rebels to hold on for the win.

The Blues host the Western Force at Auckland on Sunday to conclude the fifth round.


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