Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga kicked 25 points as the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes 35-31 yesterday.
Sopoaga hit the upright with his first shot at goal from 15m. He then kicked nine goals in succession — two conversions and seven penalties — before being replaced in the 62nd minute, three points short of the Highlanders’ record for most points in a match.
All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett scored 26 points for the Hurricanes, four shy of the Wellington team’s points-scoring record. He had two late tries as his team rallied from 35-12 down with 19 unanswered points.
Barrett also kicked two conversions and four penalties, but his efforts were only good enough to earn the Hurricanes a consolation bonus point.
The Hurricanes have just one win from five games, which should put even more pressure on embattled coach Mark Hammett now that the team’s playoff hopes are almost gone with less than a third of the season completed.
The Highlanders won their opening match against the Auckland-based Blues before dropping close games to the Chiefs and the Western Force. Yesterday’s win was their second in four games, lifting them to second behind the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference at the start of the sixth round.
“We played a good first half and we really put them under pressure,” Highlanders captain Nasi Manu said. “But I think when we came out in the second half we were guilty of defending the lead and not playing much rugby and, like a dangerous Hurricanes side, they almost caught us.”