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Sopoaga kicks 25 points to lead Highlanders over Hurricanes

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The Canadian Press
3/21/2014 9:19:40 AM
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DUNEDIN, New Zealand -- Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga kicked 25 points as the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes 35-31 in Super Rugby on Friday.

Sopoaga hit the upright with his first shot at goal from 15 metres. He then kicked nine goals in succession -- two conversions and seven penalties -- before being replaced in the 62nd minute, three points short of the Highlanders' record for most points in a match.

All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett scored 26 points for the Hurricanes, four shy of the Wellington team's points-scoring record. He had two late tries as his team rallied from 35-12 down with 19 unanswered points.

Barrett also kicked two conversions and four penalties but his efforts were only good enough to earn the Hurricanes a consolation bonus point.

The Hurricanes have just one win from five games, which should put even more pressure on embattled coach Mark Hammett now that the team's playoff hopes are almost gone with less than a third of the season completed.

The Highlanders won their opening match against the Auckland-based Blues before dropping close games to the Chiefs and the Western Force. Friday's win was their second in four games, lifting them to second behind the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference at the start of the sixth round.

"We played a good first half and we really put them under pressure," Highlanders captain Nasi Manu said. "But I think when we came out in the second half we were guilty of defending the lead and not playing much rugby and, like a dangerous Hurricanes side, they almost caught us."

Sopoaga's outstanding kicking performance helped give the Highlanders an 18-9 lead in the first half. Phil Burleigh and Patrick Osborne then scored second-half tries to give the Highlanders a 35-12 lead after 56 minutes.

"It was a tricky first half in which penalties ruled the day and we couldn't get into it," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. "But we felt pretty good and then we just got caught chasing the game again. We coughed up a try and there were a few 50-50 moments but good sides respond better than that."

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Highlanders 35 (Phil Burleigh, Patrick Osborne tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 conversions, 7 penalties), Hurricanes 31 (Beauden Barrett 2, Ben Franks tries; Beauden Barrett 2 conversions, 4 penalties). Halftime: 18-9.

Lima Sopoaga  (Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)
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