Highlanders hold off Hurricanes in Dunedin

01:00, Mar 22 2014
2014 Hurricanes season
Conrad Smith leads out the Hurricanes for their opening Super Rugby game against the Sharks in Durban.
2014 Hurricanes season
Halfback TJ Perenara looks to generate some quick ball against the Sharks.
2014 Hurricanes season
Marty Banks of the Hurricanes out jumps Ryan Kankowski of the Sharks.
2014 Hurricanes season
Adam Hill takes on the Sharks defence in Durban.
TJ Perenara
Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara attempts to toe the ball forward during the second half against the Stormers.
Cory Jane
Canes wing Cory Jane is all smiles after scoring in Port Elizabeth.
Julian Savea
Julian Savea crosses the line to score against the Stormers.
Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes evades the tackle of a Stormers defender in Round 3.
Beauden Barrett
Beauden Barrett converts Cory Jane's try from the sideline.
2014 Hurricanes season
Adam Hill of the Hurricanes is tackled by Jesse Mogg of the Brumbies in Wellington.
2014 Hurricanes season
Blade Thomson goes over the score against the Brumbies in Wellington.
2014 Hurricanes season
Beauden Barrett makes a break for the Hurricanes against the Brumbies in Wellington.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricanes players cannot hide their dejection after losing to the Brumbies at home.
Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith breaks through a Hurricanes banner as he runs onto the field for his 100th match.
Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith poses in front of a fan's banner celebrating his 100 Super Rugby matches.
Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith high-fives Motu Matu'u after the big hooker scored against the Cheetahs.
Chris Smylie
Halfback Chris Smylie makes a break down the sideline as Julian Savea calls for the pass.
Dane Coles
James Marshall grabs Dane Coles around the face after a Hurricanes try.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett congratulates Tim Bateman after the his side beat the Crusaders in Christchurch.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricanes centurion Conrad Smith celebrates a much-needed win for his team over the Crusaders.
2014 Hurricanes season
Alapati Leiua goes over to score the match-winning try for the Hurricanes against the Crusaders.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara spins a lovely pass from a ruck against the Crusaders.
2014 Hurricanes season
The Hurricanes and Bulls packs get ready to engage at McLean Park in Napier under the gaze of referee Steve Walsh.
2014 Hurricanes season
Julian Savea makes a break for the Hurricanes against the Bulls in Napier.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricane Brad Shields is wrapped up by a swarming Bulls defence at McLean Bark.
2014 Hurricanes season
Jeremy Thrush shows his delight at the final whistle as the Hurricanes beat the Bulls.
2014 Hurricanes season
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes and James Horwill of the Reds share a moment's silence to mark Anzac Day.
2014 Hurricanes season
Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea celebrates his try against the Reds at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
2014 Hurricanes season
Reds halfback Will Genia, right, tries to get to the ball ahead of Hurricanes winger Julian Savea.
2014 Hurricanes season
Chris Feauai-Sautia of the Reds looks dejected as the Hurricanes players celebrate another try in Wellington.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Andre Taylor of the Hurricanes evades the tackle of Kane Douglas of the Waratahs.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs meets some stern Hurricanes defence in Sydney.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes scores a try against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Hurricanes Conrad Smith and Cory Jane chase after the Waratahs' Rob Horne.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Alapati Leiua of the Hurricanes is tackled by Bryce Hegarty of the Rebels.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes passes whilst being tackled by Luke Jones of the Rebels.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes reacts after being sent to the sin bin against the Rebels in Melbourne.
Hurricanes 2014 season
Conrad Smith of the Hurricanes scores a try despite the efforts of the Rebels' Tom English.
Lolagi Visinia and Julian Savea
The Hurricanes Julian Savea gets away from Blues Lolagi Visinia.
Bryn Hall and Beauden Barrett.
The Blues' Bryn Hall chases down Hurricane Beauden Barrett.
Julian Savea
Julian Savea celebrates the Hurricanes' win over the Crusaders during their Round 17 Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Dan Carter
Dan Carter of the Crusaders looks to make a break against the Hurricanes during his first Super Rugby appearance of the season.
Ryan Crotty
Ryan Crotty, captain of the Crusaders, is tackled by Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes during their Super Rugby clash at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Andy Ellis
Andy Ellis of the Crusaders and Dane Coles of the Hurricanes scuffle during their round 17 Super Rugby match.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Ardie Savea
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.

Phil Burleigh doesn't get a lot of raps.

You won't see his face on a banner in Dunedin's George St, for instance.

He washed up at the Highlanders a couple of seasons ago almost by accident before a preseason game in Queenstown and would be described as more solid than spectacular.

2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders, right, charges at the Blues' Piri Weepu.
2014 Highlanders season
Patrick Osborne looks to offload against the Blues in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Malakai Fekitoa looks to evade the Blues' tacklers.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlanders halfback general Aaron Smith barks out the orders.
Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith fires out a pass from a ruck to Lima Sopoaga.
Shaun Treeby
Highlanders second-five Shaun Treeby sends a skip-pass wide against the Chiefs.
Fumiaki Tanaka
The Highlanders' disappointment is written on the face of replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka.
Richard Buckman
Highlanders back Richard Buckman misjudges a high-ball against the Chiefs.
John Hardie
Highlanders No 7 John Hardie runs around his opposite Tanerau Latimer.
Kurt Baker
Highlanders wing Kurt Baker tries to break a Force tackle.
Malakai Fekitoa
Elliott Dixon hugs Malakai Fekitoa after his second half try at Dunedin Stadium.
Nasi Manu
Nasi Manu charges into a Western Force defender.
Shaun Treeby
Shaun Treeby reacts after his first-half try from an Aaron Smith grubber kick.
Fumiaki Tanaka
Replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka sends the Highlanders' backline on its way.
2014 Highlanders season
Shane Christie gets the ball away under pressure from the Blues' defence.
2014 Highlanders season
Kane Hames of the Highlanders makes a break against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Lima Sopoaga spins a pass out against the Blues in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Joe Wheeler of the Highlanders, left, and Ma'a Nonu of the Blues embrace after the full time whistle at Eden Park.
2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith tests out the Rebels' defence in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlander Kurt Baker is hit hard in a tackle by Sean McMahon of the Rebels.
Highlanders 2014 season
Richard Buckman of the Highlanders and Bryce Hegarty of the Melbourne Rebels dance in mid air for possession of the ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kiwi born Jason Woodward of the Rebels fends off the Highlanders' Shaun Treeby during their teams' clash in Dunedin.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evan, with the support of Liam Coltman, makes a charge for the Highlanders against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
A grizzled Brad Thorn charges at Bulls lock Phillip Van Der Merwe.
Highlanders 2014 season
Jan Serfontein makes a break for the Bulls in Dunedin as the Highlanders defends scramble back.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders looking to attack SP Marais of the Sharks.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders taking a high ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action.
Highlanders 2014 season
Duane Vermeulen of the Stormers in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kurt Coleman of the Stormers during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evans of the Highlanders on the charge during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Hayden Parker of the Highlanders kicks a penalty during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions .
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders puts in a fend during Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tom Franklin
Tom Franklin of the Highlanders on the charge during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Liam Sopoaga
Liam Sopoaga of the Highlanders prepares to pass the ball during his side's clash with the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu scores a try in the round 18 match against the Highlanders at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.
 Israel Folau
HARD TO STOP: The Crusaders will keeping a close watch on Waratahs dangerman Israel Folau, pictured fending off the Highlanders’ Canterbury wing Patrick Osborne.
Alofa Alofa
Waratahs winger Alofa Alofa offloads the ball in a tackle during his side's 44-16 win over the Highlanders.
Bernard Foley
Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley is tackled by Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu celebrates scoring a try against the Highlanders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders fans cheer on their team in Christchurch in their round 19 Super Rugby game against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders lock Elliot Dixon reaches high to claim the ball in a lineout against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie encourages his Highlanders teammates in their round 19 Super Rugby match against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders prop Chris King looks on in disgust as the Crusaders look to snare three points in their round 19 Super Rugby clash.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie holds on for all money as he tries to bring down Kieron Fonotia in a tackle in the Highlanders' round 19 match against the Crusaders.
Marcell Coetzee
The Sharks celebrate Marcell Coetzee's second-half try against the Highlanders.
Malakai Fekitoa
Malakai Fekitoa's first-half try got the Highlanders back in the match after trailing 13-3 early.
Kane Hames
The Highlanders pile on prop Kane Hames after his try after the siren in the first half.
Lima Sopoaga
Lima Sopoaga kicks a first-half penalty against the Sharks.

But the Bay of Plenty midfielder operates in an almost error free zone and his try against the Hurricanes in a 35-31 win tonight might just have sparked something in this Highlanders team - it certainly helped break the fortitude of the 'Canes after a frenetic first half which was dominated by the boot.

Sparked at the back by, as you'd expect, Ben Smith, with Aaron Smith providing the link, Burleigh's score under the bar with half an hour to go was just the tonic the Highlanders and an 11,259-strong crowd needed, nearly raising the roof of Dunedin Stadium.

Patrick Osborne had the crowd on their feet again seven minutes later when he pinched a floating Hadleigh Parkes pass out of the air and ran 50m to score, a nice moment for the Highlanders after they were snapped by an intercept try by the Force last time out.

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Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders congratulates Phil Burleigh on scoring a try.

For a game with so many penalties being kicked, there was actually quite a lot of rugby being played.

Brad Thorn, returning from a rib injury, rolled back the years with a memorable first half run reminiscent of his days in another code.

Osborne, another player returning from injury, was a menace on the left wing, using his pace to get on the outside of Alapati Leiua and then managing to free an arm like a strainer post and pop the ball to his support.

congrats
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders congratulates Phil Burleigh on scoring a try.

The story of the first half, however was a battle of the boots between Lima Sopoaga and Beauden Barrett.

With both teams not able to put together the killer play to conjure up a try it was up to the respective five eighths to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

After hitting the left hand upright hard from point blank range with his first attempt, Sopoaga then put on a kicking display, landing six straight attempts to give the Highlanders an 18-9 lead at the break and setting a record for points scored by a Highlander against the Hurricanes.

The first half was a set piece drought, with scrums rare and lineouts even rarer as both teams hoisted the ball in the midfield and waited to see what would develop.

The Hurricanes would look like trouble on occasional visits into the Highlanders 22m, but they were met with the sort of defence that was sadly missing against the Force a week earlier.

It was up to Beauden Barrett to provide the Hurricanes' only points of the half.

After Burleigh and Osborne extended the Highlanders lead out to 23 points, the Hurricanes struck back through Ben Franks.

The Highlanders went to the bench and appeared to lose some momentum.

Hard on defence they went down to 14 men heading into the final 10 minutes when Jarrad Hoeata was binned for a team penalty.

Barrett scored off an Andre Taylor break and again with 30 second to go, but a brave Highlanders team wouldn't be denied.

AT A GLANCE

Highlanders 35 (Phil Burleigh, Patrick Osborne tries; Lima Sopoaga 7 pen, 2 con)

Hurricanes 31 (Ben Franks, Beauden Barrett 2 tries; Beauden Barrett 4 pen, 2 con)

HT: 18-9

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