The Wellington-based Hurricanes have returned to the top of the table in Super Rugby Pacific, beating Moana Pasifika 32-24 in a match that was a field day for front-rowers.

Three props and a hooker scored first-half tries in a game played at hectic pace on Friday. The Hurricanes led throughout, but were never able to fully shake off Moana, who trailed 19-12 at halftime and closed within two points when they scored first in the second half.

The Hurricanes fielded a second-string line-up and were under pressure, squeezed at scrums, until they went to their bench in the second half.

The win lifts the Hurricanes above the Blues into first place at the start of the weekend's 13th round. The Blues, who seized top spot from the Hurricanes last weekend, are likely to return to the pinnacle when they play the Dunedin-based Highlanders on Saturday.

"That was a crazy game and we're happy to get through that one," Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said. "The thing is when we're going well it's because we're doing the small things right.

"When we get behind or we get a little bit stuck, it's because we're trying a bit hard or we're doing things which aren't in our DNA."

The Hurricanes were taken out of their comfort zone by Moana, who played at a fast pace and were backed by strong performances at set pieces. A 54th-minute try by flanker Peter Lakai, who joined the match as a replacement, was critical for the winners.

The first try of the game went to hooker Raymond Tuputupu after 11 minutes, in his first start for the Hurricanes. Prop Siale Lauaki scored in the 20th minute after scrumhalf Richard Judd had tallied in the 13th, giving the Hurricanes their biggest lead at 19-0.

Moana pressured the Hurricanes at scrums and came back into the match, scoring tries through props Sione Mafileo and Abraham Pole to cut the lead to seven points at halftime.

Winger Fine Inise scored for Moana shortly after the break to cut the Hurricanes' lead to two points at 19-17.

Lakai's try from a charged-down kick in the 54th minute restored the Hurricanes' advantage, and flyhalf Aidan Morgan made the lead 29-17 with a penalty in the 61st.

Backrower Alamanda Motuga scored a try and it was converted by Christian Leali'ifano, which cut the lead to 29-24 until Morgan sealed the win with a penalty.

Hurricanes 32 (Tries: Tuputupu, Lauaki, Judd, Lakai; Cons: Morgan 3; Pens: Morgan 2) def Moana Pasifika 24 (Tries: Mafileo, Pole, Inisi, Motuga; Cons: Havili, Lealiifano)

Hurricanes: 15 Harry Godfrey, 14 Daniel Sinkinson, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Aidan Morgan, 9 Richard Judd, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Ben Grant, 4 Justin Sangster, 3 Siale Lauaki, 2 Raymond Tuputupu, 1 Pouri Rakete-Stones.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawe, 20 Peter Lakai, 21 Jordi Viljoen, 22 Riley Higgins, 23 Salesi Rayasi.

Moana: 15 Danny Toala, 14 Fine Inisi, 13 Henry Taefu, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Neria Fomai, 10 William Havili, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Jacob Norris, 5 Allan Craig, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Samieula Moli, 1 Abraham Pole.
Replacements: 16 Sama Malolo, 17 Tevita Langi, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Ola Tauelangi, 20 Alamanda Motuga, 21 Aisea Halo, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Anzelo Tuitavuki.

Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin; Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart