The Hurricanes have held on to claim a hard-fought 17-8 win over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Wellington.
In a relatively dour defensive affair, the hosts were more effective in taking advantage of their opportunities, while the Highlanders attack never quite found its rhythm, as errors and penalties plagued them at critical junctures.
The Hurricanes scored three tries to lead by as much as 17-0 early in the second half. The southerners weren't able to cross the chalk until the 58th minute, scoring 11 unanswered points in a run that was more face-saving than anything resembling a comeback.
Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara turned in a captain's knock for his side, bettering All Blacks counterpart Aaron Smith, while relentless flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi continued to shine up front.
The visitors looked to have made the ideal start, when Mitch Hunt scythed through a hole in midfield and sent Smith in under the crossbar, but a referee review revealed a contentious obstruction earlier in the movement to disallow the try.
Just minutes later, much less doubt surrounded the obstruction that allowed Ngani Laumape to run in a try from close range, ensuring the scoreboard remained untouched.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 28th minute, as Perenara sold his All Blacks cohort Smith a dummy at bargain basement price, scooting over from a ruck for an easy try behind the posts.
Eight minutes later, the Hurricanes added their second try. Jordie Barrett burst through a midfield gap from a set move, then fired a delightful long pass to wing Kobus van Wyk, who still had plenty of work left to do, beating two defenders to finish in the corner.
The hosts took a 12-0 advantage in the sheds at halftime and carried that momentum into the second stanza, remaining patient on attack to score through Devan Flanders after a 22-phase build up.
A penalty and a try for Aaron Smith off the back of a clinical rolling maul kept the Highlanders in the contest, reducing their deficit to nine points with 21 minutes remaining.
But errors continued to cost the visitors. Launching one final raid deep into Hurricanes' territory, the Highlanders were forced to settle for a shot at goal to secure a bonus point in defeat.
The Hurricanes will try to record their third successive win, when they take on the Blues in Wellington next Saturday, while the Highlanders continue north to take on the winless Chiefs in Hamilton.
Hurricanes 17 (TJ Perenara, Kobus van Wyk, Devan Flanders tries; Jordie Barrett conversion) Highlanders 11 (Aaron Smith try; Mitch Hunt 2 penalties). HT: 12-0.
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