Parker penalty gives Highlanders victory


A late penalty from Hayden Parker gave champions Highlanders a 17-16 victory over Hurricanes in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby final.

Highlanders beat Hurricanes to claim their first Super Rugby title last July and Jamie Joseph's side inflicted more misery on the Wellington outfit by edging a thriller on Saturday to make it two wins out of two.

Hurricanes started their season with a 52-10 hammering at Brumbies, but gave a far better account of themselves at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

A hat-trick of Beauden Barrett penalties and a converted second-half try from TJ Perenara looked to have given Hurricanes a measure of revenge for their 2015 final heartbreak.

But replacement Parker had the final say four minutes from time after the home side had led 11-6 at half-time courtesy of a try from Malakai Fekitoa and six points from the boot of Lima Sopoaga, who also slotted over a penalty after the break.

It was fly-half Sopoaga who laid on the opening try for Fekitoa, delivering a perfectly weighted pass to allow the centre to go over in the ninth minute.

Barrett's second penalty of the match made it 8-6 after Sopoaga was also successful from the tee and the Hurricanes could have been in front at the break had they been more clinical.

Perenara capped a period of Hurricanes pressure by touching down from close range after 55 minutes and Barrett converted to reduce the deficit to 14-13.

He added another penalty to put Hurricanes back in front with 20 minutes remaining, then Highlanders were frustrated when Fekitoa looked to have forced the ball into the goalpost padding, but the try was not awarded and Liam Squire also had a score chalked off for a forward pass.

But Parker held his nerve to nail a decisive penalty and Highlanders held on in a tense final.