Pacy Highlanders too good for Hurricanes

The Highlanders have outplayed the Hurricanes in a 30-14 upset that hurts the Wellington side's hopes of qualifying for the finals as New Zealand's top Super Rugby team.

A try to former Australian schoolboys representative prop Tyrel Lomax put the Highlanders in front entering the final quarter and they never looked back on Friday night, stretching their winning sequence in Dunedin to 12 matches.

The hosts scored four tries to two against a Hurricanes team whose lineout faltered badly, forcing them to spend much of the contest in defence.

The result leaves the Hurricanes (10-3) and Highlanders (9-4) well on track to reach the play-offs but in danger of losing touch with the Crusaders (11-2) at the top of the New Zealand conference and overall standings.

The Hurricanes had won 10 straight games before a forgettable South Island swing, having gone down to the Crusaders last week.

They looked set to bounce back when they led 14-13 early in the second spell but sheer weight of possession told as the southerners produced arguably their best performance of the season.

The rapid pace of the game suited the hosts, who threw a total of 149 passes and made 140 runs, marshalled as always by All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.

They led 8-7 at halftime, having conceded a try to Jordie Barrett before responding with one of the tries of the season.

With just 14 players on the field, the Highlanders retained possession for four full minutes after the halftime hooter sounded before sending winger Tevita Li across.

All Blacks flanker Liam Squire had been shown a yellow card for a swinging arm tackle on Hurricanes winger Julian Savea.

Savea may have been lucky to avoid the same fate. He appeared to retaliate with a punch but the television replays were indecisive.

Smith and Hurricanes prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen traded tries before former Rebels front-rower Lomax bagged his maiden Super Rugby try in timely fashion.

Waisake Naholo capped a brilliant game with a late try as the Highlanders dominated the closing stages.