Hurricanes down Highlanders to end season on high

Wellington (AFP) –


Wellington Hurricanes finished a disappointing Super Rugby Aotearoa season on a high with a 41-22 win over Otago Highlanders in the New Zealand capital Friday.

The Hurricanes scored six tries to three for just their second win of the year -- the first also came against the Highlanders last month.

Both teams were only playing for pride, with Canterbury Crusaders and Waikato Chiefs already through to the tournament final in Christchurch next weekend.

But the lack of pressure made for an entertaining contest with the lead changing three times before the Hurricanes ran away with the match late in the second half.

They still finish bottom of the table but captain Dane Coles said it was a morale-boosting result.

"Obviously we haven't had a great year but I'm proud of the way we've turned up, results have been close and we've continued to put in the hard work," he said.

"We didn't put up the white flag and we got a result tonight."

Hurricanes number eight Devan Flanders scored the opening try in the eighth minute after Coles won a turnover.

The Wellington captain was then sinbinned, along with Highlanders fly-half Mitch Hunt, after the pair exchanged blows.

The Highlanders coped best with being a man down as Japanese international Kazuki Himeno burst through a gap in the defence to set up Josh Dickson's try.

Jona Nareki followed up with another after a driving maul to extend the visitors' lead to 10 points.

But Coles muscled his way over the line for the Hurricanes' second five-pointer and Jordie Barrett kicked a penalty to peg back the Highlanders' advantage to 17-15 at half time.

Ngani Laumape put the hosts ahead within a minute of the restart, outpacing Aaron Smith to ground a perfectly placed Barrett kick.

The Hurricanes then dominated as the rapidly tiring Highlanders conceded three tries to one in the closing stages of the match.