Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea made amends for missing a curfew by scoring the winning try just in time to complete a double and seal what could be a crucial Super Rugby 27-20 victory over Highlanders at Westpac Stadium.

Savea was one of five Hurricanes players to be dropped for the victory over Reds last time out after arriving back to the team hotel later ahead of the clash with Sharks in Durban.

The quintet were recalled for a crunch clash with the champions, a repeat of last year's final, and Savea came up with the first and last tries of a pulsating encounter in Wellington on Friday.

Victory for Chris Boyd's side put them two points above the Highlanders to take third spot in the New Zealand Conference heading into the break for June Tests.

Savea produced a rapid turn of foot to surge away for the opening try after 14 minutes following a great break and offload from Cory Jane - another of the players to miss a curfew in South Africa.

Brad Shields went under the posts and Beauden Barrett, successful with both conversions, slotted over a penalty just before half-time to make it 17-7 after Lima Sopoaga had gone over in the corner and converted his own try.

Sopoaga produced a moment of brilliance in the first half when he pulled off a cheeky no-look reverse kick and drew the champions level with a penalty after a converted Dan Lienert-Brown try just after half-time had cut the gap to three points.

There was one final twist after Barrett and Marty Banks traded penalties, with Savea plucking the ball from the pack and scampering over for the decisive try - with Barrett adding the extras.