Highlanders vs Hurricanes highlights, scores, video, match report


Highlanders captain Aaron Smith made the explosive accusation that his struggling side was “getting robbed all the time”, after a heartbreaking Super Rugby Pacific loss to the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday.

After trailing 14-6 at half-time, the Highlanders staged a spirited second-half comeback and looked to have won the game when young prop Saula Ma’u barged over the try line in the final second of the game.

However, referee Angus Mabey, making his Super Rugby debut, ruled on field no try – feeling that Ma’u was just short – and the TMO couldn’t find any evidence to overturn the decision.

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The decision prompted loud boos from the home crowd and the Hurricanes will feel they were slightly fortunate to get the 22-21 win at the end.

“It could’ve been a try at the end – maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t,” All Blacks star Smith said.

“But we’re getting robbed all the time. We had a red card (Josh Dickson) for contact to the head and one of our guys (Gareth Evans) blatantly gets a black eye, and the touchies and ref walk it off like it’s nothing.

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“All we want is consistency as players and we’re just getting no rub of the green at the moment. It’s hard to swallow.”

Dickson was sent off after 19 minutes after connecting with Hurricanes prop Tevita Mafileo’s head with his left shoulder.

Mabey reached for the red card after viewing several replays as Mafileo departed for an HIA.

The incident looked clumsy rather than reckless, but the contact rocked Mafileo’s head backwards and players have been repeatedly told that head contact spells a yellow or red card.

Dickson’s red card capped a poor first quarter for the Highlanders, who also conceded two tries to Bailyn Sullivan and Salesi Rayasi.

That left the Hurricanes in control of the game, but they failed to kick on and the boot of Marty Banks kept the Highlanders in the game.

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The home side also got good value out of its bench, with Mitch Hunt and Folau Fakatava adding plenty of spark.

Hurricanes replacement playmaker Aidan Morgan scored from a well-worked move to restore their advantage.

It was enough to grab the four competition points, although not without the controversial finish.

Hurricanes carve up Highlanders

The Highlanders lost in-form No.8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u before kick-off, with Hugh Renton taking his place.

With Shannon Frizell already out injured for two months, it was the last thing they needed, and Mikaele-Tu’u’s punch was missed on attack and in defence.

The outlook worsened when new No.13 Denny Solomona left the field after just 16 minutes, after making an important tackle on Josh Moorby.

The big moment

Mabey’s decision to not award the try will prompt plenty of debate in Highlanders country, as will the black eye picked up by Evans after a ruck incident involving Asafo Aumua.

The Highlanders back-rower was clearly incensed by the incident, pointing to his shiner as he left the field, but it was cleared by the match officials.

Match rating

6.5/10. The Highlanders’ second-half fightback provided plenty of drama, but both sides will feel the game was scrappy in patches.

The big picture

The Highlanders’ finals hopes are far from over due to the eight-team finals format, but they will seek improvements as they head to Australia next week for the Super Round in Melbourne.

Dickson’s likely suspension adds to their challenges before meeting the Brumbies.

The Hurricanes will meet the Reds, but they, too, will feel they need to go up a few gears.

MVP

Julian Savea and Salesi Rayasi had some strong moments for the Hurricanes, while Gareth Evans was influential over the ball for the Highlanders. Scott Gregory showed his toughness in the second half, but Rayasi was probably the pick of the bunch.

Hurricanes 22 (Bailyn Sullivan try 7 min, Salesi Rayasi 20 min try, Aidan Morgan try 74 min, Jordie Barrett 2 cons, pen) Highlanders 21 (Andrew Makalio try 51 min, Max Hicks try 66 min, Marty Banks 3 pens, con) HT: 14-6

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