Highlanders flyhalf Hayden Parker kicked 18 points as his team won an arm-wrestle derby against the Hurricanes, sneaking home 18-16 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Wellington on Friday.
But while Parker was the hero with five penalties and a drop goal, the game came to a controversial end as the Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who had terrorised All Black halfback Aaron Smith all game, was disallowed a try that would have won them the game four minutes from the end.
Perenara had burst through a hole near the tryline and placed the ball on the line to score what he thought was his second try of the match, but the television match official ruled that replacement hooker Ash Dixon was obstructing a defender and was in front of the ball.
While the decision looked legitimate, Dixon did have a grasp on a player at the ruck and claimed he was onside, but it wasn’t enough to sway the match officials and the try was disallowed.
For once though, it was good to be reminded that despite the brutal battles we see in South African derbies, not all New Zealand games are entertaining affairs.
There wasn’t much to write home about in the first half, both teams pummelling each other in the search for ascendancy as they looked to find weaknesses.
But with defences strong and limited space on offer, the best both sides could hope for was ticking the scoreboard with penalties, and Parker and the opposition kicking duo of Beauden Barritt and Andre Taylor did just that.
Barrett knocked over two penalties to match the opening two kicks of Parker, but then Perenara harassed Smith to the point of embarrassment, catching his arm at the back of a scrum on his own line, before the Hurricanes halfback gathered and scored.
As a halfback, Smith would have been upset at his failing and even though the TMO had repeated looks at it, there was no knock on and the try stood.
Parker grabbed a penalty back to put his side four points behind at the break.
The arm wrestle continued as Parker added a fourth penalty shortly after the break but it wasn’t long before Taylor added one of his own to stretch the lead again in the 47th minute.
But Parker then landed a long range effort after the visitors won a scrum penalty, keeping in touch with the home side as the game ticked its way down.
Then in the 65th minute, with the Highlanders firmly on attack on the goalline, Parker took a massive decision – the first time the ball went backwards in a tackle, he took the pass and put it through the uprights, grabbing an important three points and adding his second drop goal of the season to his tally.
In the end with Perenara’s second disallowed and loud boos ringing out in the crowd, the Highlanders did what they had to, to wear down the clock and closed it off for a good win away from home.
Hurricanes - Try: TJ Perenara. Conversion: Andre Taylor. Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2), Andre Taylor.
Highlanders - Drop Goal: Hayden Parker. Penalties: Hayden Parker (5).