March 18 (Reuters) - The Hurricanes blew away the Highlanders with a dominant second-half display as the defending Super Rugby champions got back to winning ways with a comprehensive 41-15 victory in Wellington on Saturday.
Both teams went into the contest missing key players through injury but the Hurricanes were simply too powerful and too skilful on the day and ran out easy winners over their tiring opponents after being held to a two-point advantage at halftime.
Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso scored two tries apiece for the home side, with Ardie Savea, Julian Savea and Matt Proctor also touching down for the Hurricanes, who won their third match in four outings following last week’s loss to the Chiefs.
Matt Faddes and Elliot Dixon responded with tries for the Hurricanes, who were also guilty of coughing up 13 handling errors as they fell to their third loss in four matches.
“Our discipline was a key factor and I think our defence was outstanding tonight,” Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said in a pitchside interview.
“We made sure we got that enjoyment back this week... but we had to work quite hard for it.”
The Hurricanes started the brighter and dominated possession, while the Highlanders looked to make the most of their chances with their backline runners on the counter-attack on the few occasions they got their hands on the ball.
The home side were rewarded for their attacking endeavour in the 11th minute when Ardie Savea, playing at number eight, collected the ball from an advanced lineout and touched down at the back of a driving maul.
Beauden Barrett, who was wayward off the kicking tee, missed the conversion and after Fletcher Smith slotted home a long-range penalty for the Highlanders in the 26th minute, the lead was down to two points as the visitors grew into the match.
Six minutes later, the Highlanders took the lead when, after turning down a routine kick in front of the posts, replacement centre Faddes stormed through a gap in the home defence from the back of the scrum to make it 8-5 to the visitors.
The conversion was missed and the lead short-lived when the Hurricanes made progress up the middle before spinning the ball out wide for Barrett to send a kick into the corner for Laumape to scoop up and go over for his first try and a 10-8 halftime lead.
The second half turned into a formality for the Hurricanes after Proctor scored an early try and Laumape cancelled out Dixon’s effort in a period when home scrumhalf TJ Perenara was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Once the hosts were back up to 15 men, Julian Savea rounded off a sweeping move down the left wing before Aso twice breached a demoralised Highlanders defence to complete the scoring. (Reporting by John O‘Brien in Singapore; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)