Hurricanes seal top spot
The Hurricanes secured top spot in Super Rugby with an emphatic 56-20 win over the Highlanders on an emotional evening in Napier after the death of Jerry Collins.
Collins, a former Hurricane, died in southern France when his car was involved in a collision with a bus at 4.30am local time (3.30am BST) on Friday morning.
Tributes have poured in for the former All Black from across the rugby world and the Hurricanes showed a touching video montage of his career highlights as both sides huddled for a minute's silence before the game at McLean Park.
The home side then ran in eight tries in a commanding display, with TJ Perenara and Ma'a Nonu both crossing twice, with the latter pointing and looking to the sky in what was seemingly a tribute to his former team-mate.
The hosts actually took a little while to get going, with t he Highlanders opening the scoring through a drop goal from fly-half Lima Sopoaga , but Hurricanes full-back James Marshall - who was on kicking duties despite Beauden Barrett's return at 10 - hit back with a penalty in the third minute.
At this point the Highlanders were looking threatening, but after Sopoaga missed a penalty and Marshall split the posts with his own attempt the Hurricanes took control, running in three tries in nine minutes.
First, silky wing Nehe Milner-Skudder evaded three tackles and flicked a sumptuous offload for Blade Thomson to run in after 12 minutes, before Marshall rather fortuitously weaved his way past five defenders - who were more successful at taking each other out - to dot down three minutes later. The full-back was able to add the extras for the former but was unable to convert his own try.
He had another opportunity in the 24th minute after Julian Savea's clever chip over the top created havoc in the Highlanders' ranks. Wing Waisake Naholo was forced back over his own try line but he nobly brought it back out, evading stalking Hurricanes, before the lack of support told and Perenara went over to make it 23-3. Marshall missed the conversion.
The Highlanders had a three-minute salvo of their own around the half-hour mark with Ryan Tongia and Sopoaga both notching quickfire tries to make it 23-13, but the Highlanders fly-half missed both conversions to leave the hosts a comfortable cushion.
Hooker Dane Coles built on that and secured a bonus point for the Hurricanes when he went over in the corner after a quick offload from Savea in the 35th minute. Marshall added the extras to make it 30-13 at the break.
Savea crossed himself shortly after the interval in similar circumstances, before Highlanders full-back Marty Banks struck back and Sopoaga added the extras this time to make it 37-20 after Marshall did likewise.
The rest of the second half belonged to the Hurricanes with Perenara grabbing his second try in the 46th minute, before substitute Nonu took centre stage with a late brace.
The All Black summed up the emotion of the evening by looking to the sky after his first try, which saw him bulldoze through four defenders, before he ran in a simpler second to make the scoreline emphatic. Marshall completed his 21-point haul by converting the latter.