Jordie Barrett produced one of the great displays from fullback to guide the Hurricanes to their first win of the season in Dunedin on Friday.
Jordie Barrett produced one of the great displays from fullback to guide the Hurricanes to their first win of the season in Dunedin on Friday, scoring all of his side’s points in a 30-19 win.
On a night when Aaron Smith won his 154th cap for the Highlanders, overtaking Ben Smith, Barrett was simply magnificent, running in three tries and twice punishing the Highlanders with long-range penalties with his cannon of a right foot.
The Hurricanes were too sharp in the crtical moments before and after half-time and the apparent lack of composure from the home side will give Tony Brown plenty to chew over before the daunting trip to face the Crusaders in Christchurch next Friday.
But the Hurricanes are finally up and running after a false start against the Chiefs last week, and what will please coach Jason Holland is the amount of grit they showed when the flow of the game was running against them.
Coming out of the sheds with a 17-7 halftime lead built on slick attacking play and desperate defence, the Hurricanes struck a dagger blow inside five minutes of a restart.
Highlanders No 10 Mitch Hunt dropped a simple high kick from Barrett and from the subsequent scrum the visitors powered upfield, eventually hitting a flying Barrett with an inside ball for the All Black’s hat-trick of tries.
His easy conversion pushed the score out to 24-7 and although talismanic Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles was replaced shortly afterwards following a handy display, the game was well under control.
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Consolation tries to Highlanders Connor Garden-Bachop and Thomas Umaga-Jensen narrowed the final scoreline to 30-19 as the home side showed some fight, but it was too little too late.
For the Highlanders, Josh Ioane was dangerous with ball in hand from fullback, while returning lock Pari Pari Parkinson again showed his All Blacks potential with a terrific return to rugby in front of an appreciative crowd of 13,665.
But the Highlanders had been bedevilled by slow starts in their first three games, conceding four tries in the opening quarters and scoring none, and that grim trend continued on Friday.
After Ioane missed an early penalty Barrett landed a trademark 50-metre effort to open the scoring.
Barrett then scored from a lovely backline move after five minutes when the Highlanders were expecting the drive, with the big fullback getting on the outside of debutant Freedom Vahaakolo to score.
The Highlanders were denied a try when Shannon Frizell lost the ball over the line after some heavy carries from the forwards, with Parkinson prominent.
With the pressure building the Hurricanes were forced into conceding a flurry of penalties that eventually saw Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax sent to the sin bin after 24 minutes.
Barrett then turned try saver with a brilliant tackle just as it looked like Vahaakolo was set to score, although the rookie may rue the fact he didn’t outstretch an arm to plant the ball down.
It was only a temporary reprieve, as veteran lock Bryn Evans surged over just as Lomax was about to return to the paddock.
However, the difference between the sides was shown in the five minutes heading into halftime.
After the Highlanders – who were without late scratching Jona Nareki – had coughed the ball up trying to run it out of their own 22m, the Hurricanes showed the benefits of a more patient approach.
After holding the ball for multiple phases while probing for gaps, that man Barrett ran a nice line off Salesi Rayasi’s shoulder and accepted an offload to go under the sticks.
He booted the conversion and the Hurricanes took a handy 17-7 lead into the break.
While the city of Dunedin hasn’t always provided Barrett with the happiest of memories, this late March evening will go down as one of his finest hours.
The selection battle for the All Blacks No 15 jersey is starting to look very crowded this year.
Hurricanes 30 (Jordie Barrett 3 tries, Barrett 3 cons, 3 pens) Highlanders 19 (Bryn Evans, Connor Garden-Bachop, Thomas Umaga-Jensen tries, Josh Ioane 2 cons): HT: 17-7
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