WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Dunedin, New Zealand-based Highlanders moved temporarily into first place in Super Rugby on Friday with a 33-12, bonus-point win over the ACT Brumbies.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes earlier had a 43-14 bonus-point win over Australian champions the Queensland Reds.
With the top two teams qualifying for next weekend's final, the Auckland-based Blues could finish in first place if they beat Australia's Western Force on Saturday.
The Hurricanes did not hold back in an incident-packed match which included a penalty try among eight tries, three yellow cards and several other moments of contention.
“We wanted to come out here and put in a performance that we’re proud of, to get five points. We did and now we’ve just got to wait,” Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea said.
After leading by only 10-7 at halftime and 17-14 in the 10th minute of the second half, the Hurricanes came home strongly with two tries to replacement hooker Dane Coles, a penalty try and another to backrower Devan Flanders which clinched the vital bonus point with nine minutes remaining.
They still ended the regular season on a high note. Even the relatively low-scoring first half was full of movement as both teams had long periods in possession and created attacks which swept from one end of the field to the other.
The first try of the match, after only three minutes, went to Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape and had significance. Laumape played the last of 84 matches for the Hurricanes on Friday before joining the French club Stade Francais. The try was his 48th in the Hurricanes jersey.
Laumape was over the line again in the 14th minute but that try and others to Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett and Queensland prop Taniela Tupou were all disallowed, mostly for knock-ons.
A try to Reds scrumhalf Tate McDermott leveled the score at 7-7 in the 27th and the Hurricanes took the halftime lead with a penalty to Jordie Barrett.
Flyhalf Ruben Love put the Hurricanes further ahead with a try in the 45th but the Reds replied with a try from hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa.
The Hurricanes stretched their lead with Coles’ first try, then a contentious penalty try when Reds flyhalf Bryce Hegarty was judged to have deliberately knocked the ball over the dead-ball line.
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