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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The ACT Brumbies upset the Wellington-based Hurricanes 12-10 in Super Rugby trans-Tasman on Saturday, giving Australian teams their second win of the tournament and likely ending the Hurricanes' pursuit of a place in the final.
In a dramatic finish, with the Brumbies clinging to a two-point lead, a Hurricanes try was disallowed because of a knock-on in the lead-up and fullback Jordie Barrett missed two potentially match-winning penalties.
The contentious decision to scrub out a decisive try came in the 73rd minute as the Hurricanes had begun to stretch a tiring Brumbies defense. The Hurricanes moved the ball quickly from a tapped penalty and replacement prop Alex Fidow broke past the last defender to score.
The on-field referee awarded the try but the television official highlighted a fractional knock-on by Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea and the try was disallowed.
The Hurricanes still had two chances to claim the match. They were awarded two late penalties but Barrett missed the first from just over 50 meters in front of the posts and the second from closer range but a wider angle.
The loss leaves the Hurricanes marooned in fourth place, four points behind the Auckland-based Blues. The other final place is now likely to go either to the Highlanders, who took a bonus point from an emphatic win over the New South Wales Waratahs earlier Saturday, or New Zealand champions the Crusaders.
“It's a pretty tough pill to swallow tonight,” Savea said. “We knew coming to Canberra was going to be a tough one, that the Brumbies boys were going to bring it physically and they certainly did that.
“We just missed out there in the end. We’re pretty gutted to be honest but it is what it is.”
The Hurricanes, who came in as favorites, found themselves mostly chasing the match. Brumbies scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan scored the first try in the 12th minute, putting the Hurricanes on the back foot as they chased a bonus point win which would have put their final place beyond doubt.
The Hurricanes hit back swiftly with a try to hooker Dane Coles and a penalty to Barrett which gave them a 10-7 lead at halftime.
But the Brumbies regained the lead with Len Ikitau's try in the 12th minute of the second half and the Hurricanes were unable to fully bridge the gap. They sought to play at pace and with ball in hand but were constantly frustrated by the physical and relentless nature of the Brumbies’ defense.
“The boys dug deep there,” Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said. “We were just very grateful to get the win. We gave them a few opportunities at the end there to win the game so there are ways we can get better.”
Earlier, the Dunedin-based Highlanders scored nine tries in a 59-23 win over the Waratahs, consigning the Waratahs to a record 12th-straight loss this season.
That matched the worst losing streak by an Australian team in Super Rugby — the Melbourne Rebels lost 12 in a row between April 2011 and March 2012.
The Highlanders led 33-23 after a frantic first half which saw seven tries and six lead changes. The first try of the match came after only two minutes when Highlanders center Michael Collins scored from first phase.
In a see-sawing period between the second and 21st minutes, Jack Maddocks scored for the Waratahs, Sio Tomkinson for the Highlanders, Mark Nawaqanitawase for the Waratahs and Ethan de Groot for the Highlanders as the lead changed hands. There were five tries and four lead changes in the first quarter alone.
The Highlanders finished the half strongly with tries to Ash Dixon and Jona Nareki to establish a 10-point lead.
They built on on that advantage in a more sedate second half, scoring four tries and conceding none as prop De Groot and winger Nareki completed doubles.
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