The Hurricanes broke their three-match losing streak in the last round-robin game of Super Rugby Aotearoa with a 41-22 victory over the Highlanders. It was their first win at home for the season.

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The match was a niggly affair with some irritating scuffles between passages of skill and spirited play. After a reasonable first half, the Highlanders found it difficult to contain Ngani Laumape and Salesi Rayasi who both ran over 100 metres and as the co-captain Aaron Smith said in the post-match interview, “we’re looking forward to playing someone who is not Kiwi”. The trans-Tasman competition starts in a fortnight.

Here’s how the Highlanders rated.

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1. Ethan de Groot – 7/10
The young 22-year-old was strong again. Put in a good effort in the first scrum that yielded a penalty and you could see from the look in his eyes that he was looking forward to his day at the office. Offside in 13th minute but won another couple of scrum penalties. Off at 48.

2. Ash Dixon – 7
Looked energised after the bye. Took some delight in cleaning out barnacles like Du’Plessis Kirifi at the breakdown in the first half. He was still working hard at 58 when he went over for the try and then was subbed.

3. Siate Tokolahi – 7
Some solid tight work, anchoring the dominant scrum in the first half. His eyes must have lit up before he smashed Princep at 47 and led the rolling maul that resulted in Dixon’s try. Off at 58.

4. Bryn Evans – 6.5
Beavered away in the tight, the highlight in the open was the incredible chase of Luke Campbell then got quickly back to his feet for the turnover.

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5. Josh Dickson – 6.5
Finished the Highlanders’ first try after a surging attack. Did his core role well with takes and tackles galore, off at 65.

6. Shannon Frizell – 7
In the 17th minute, he really got into top gear alongside Kazuki Himeno to power the Highlanders over for a try to Dickson. His numbers all season have been insane and he can add 18 carries and 14 tackles to the mountain of stats. He’ll be relishing the prospect of bullying some Aussie defensive lines in the month to come.

7. Billy Harmon – 6
A little cute with trying to wind up Dane Coles and was penalised himself at 36 minutes. And that led to the try by who else but Dane Coles. Lovely hot stepping in the lead up to the Sam Gilbert try that was disallowed and in general showed some good ball skills.

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8. Kazuki Himeno – 6
Has been a revelation with strong running and soft hands. Good turnover in the 13th minute and a couple of successful carries in the 18th that led to Dickson’s try. Ended up with 40 metres off 6 carries, that’s a good run rate! Strayed with his discipline at 32 minutes with an offside and a tackle indiscretion. Didn’t start the second half well with a knock-on from the kickoff that led to the Laumape try and then off at 48.

9. Aaron Smith – 7
Good general work around the paddock and a very smart rugby player. When you watch the passages leading up to the Gilbert no-try you could see his expertise in picking out the right runners. Couldn’t beat Laumape in a foot race for his try at the start of the second half. Off at 73.

10. Mitch Hunt – 5.5
He’s such an important cog in the Highlanders machine but he couldn’t dictate proceedings tonight. He added the Coles elbow to his facial beauty regime. Got a massage from Coles in the 16th minute after a slightly high tackle and was yellow-carded himself.

11. Jona Nareki – 6
A magic run and pass in the 8th minute and got himself a try in the 29th, tried some archery with a nice post-try pose and it looked as though it was going to be his night. But like his team, lost his way in the second half and got the dropsies towards the end of the game.

12. Scott Gregory – 5.5
He’s growing into the 12 jersey. A tough prospect to tackle when he runs straight, and a good long pass to Nareki for his try. Missed a tackle on Kirifi that led to the Devan Flanders try and put in an aimless kick at 67 off his left foot that released Salesi Rayasi on a dangerous run.

13. Patelesio Tomkinson – 5
Solid turnover at 14 minutes. Came off second best on Peter Umaga-Jenson’s hip at 63 minutes and off for the night. Looks more suited to second five and hasn’t looked at home at 13.

14. Sam Gilbert – 7
Handy player to have come back from injury at this stage of a long season. Took over the punting duties while Hunt was off for ten minutes. In the 23rd minute, put in a lovely touch finder in open play but spoilt it seconds later with a knock-on from a high box kick. Denied a try from a captain’s referral. Good turnover at 65 and a welcome return to Super Rugby.

15. Nehe Milner-Skudder – 6
In the first minute, he got mashed by Laumape. With all the injury problems he’s had, we all held our breath. He got up. Whew! Lovely one-handed touch in the 23rd minute and glided around the defence at 30 for a half break. Had the unenviable job of trying to take down Rayasi in the 79th but barely laid a hand on him.

Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman – 4.5
On at 58. The Highlanders tight effort fell away when the bench came on.

17. Ayden Johnstone – 4
On at 48. Looked a little rusty coming off the bench and looked unsure where he should be in the pod at times. Got turned over by Kirifi and Ruben Love scooted past him for the Kirifi try.

18. Josh Hohneck – 4.5
On at 58. Some good tackles and has lovely handling as a pod runner.

19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 4.5
On at 65. The Highlanders have some depth at lock and he looked good.

20. Hugh Renton – 5.5
On at 48. Busy in defence and concentrated on turnovers and got three of them. Good battle with Kirifi.

21. Kayne Hammington – 4
On at 73. Spent a lot of time thrashing around on the ground trying to tidy some trashy ruck ball.

22. Michael Collins – 5
On at 63, got a gift pass from Kirifi but couldn’t make anything of it. Had one nice run and is probably a more natural centre than Tomkinson.

23. James Lentjes – N/A
On at 70.

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