The Wellington Hurricanes kept their Super 15 play-off hopes alive with an emphatic 66-24 bonus-point demolition of the Melbourne Rebels yesterday.
It was a record Super Rugby score for the Hurricanes, who bounced back from their 37-25 loss to the ACT Brumbies last week with a nine-try blitz.
Julian Savea, who is tipped to make his All Blacks debut against Ireland next month, scored three tries while Andre Taylor and Alapati Leiua scored two each. Beauden Barrett converted them all and added a penalty for 21 points.
The Hurricanes now sit just outside the cut-off point for the play-offs in a cluster involving the Coastal Sharks, the Otago Highlanders and the Queensland Reds in a battle for the vital sixth position.
“We were pretty disappointed with the way things went last week. We just wanted to come out and put a good performance together and you just had a feeling all week we were due for a good one,” ’Canes skipper Conrad Smith said.
“There’s a lot of nice talent coming through and it’s good to have a side with a lot of character that allows guys to play like that and look good,” he added.
For the visiting Rebels, who scored first, their hopes of achieving three consecutive victories for the first time in their history were dashed by a poor defensive effort and their chances of qualifying look remote.
The Hurricanes trailed 3-10 early in the match, before Taylor scored his first try to set them on the way to a 38-17 lead by halftime.
With scrumhalf TJ Perenara influential, the Hurricanes allowed the Rebels little time to attack.
When they did, Melbourne made the most of them, with Cooper Vuna scoring twice in the first half — the first after Kurtley Beale carved through the Hurricanes’ line and the second from an intercept.
However, it was never going to be enough against the Hurricanes, whose tackling gave them ample turnover ball.
Perenara and Tim Bateman set up the Hurricanes’ first try with a blind-side move which ended with a desperate flick pass from Bateman, which Taylor scooped up from his bootlaces to dive over the line.
Leiua and Savea both scored tries by gathering a favorable bounce from a chip kick, Barrett created the gap for another Savea try and Jack Lam scored from turnover ball.
The Hurricanes scored almost immediately after the resumption, with Leiua’s second try coming after Victor Vito had set the Rebels back with a 40m run.
Savea benefited from a long Perenara pass for his third try before Taylor, the competition’s leading try-scorer, crossed for his second to give him 10 for the season.
A try to replacement scrumhalf Chris Eaton had the Hurricanes up 66-17 before Adam Freier picked up a consolation third try for the Rebels on fulltime.
HIGHLANDERS 27, BLUES 20
Winger Hosea Gear raised his hand for All Blacks selection with a brace of tries as the visiting Otago Highlanders withstood a late charge by the Auckland Blues to win their Super Rugby match 27-20 at Eden Park yesterday.
Gear, whose omission from a 35-man squad for the All Blacks raised eyebrows in New Zealand, scored a try in each half to keep the Highlanders’ playoff ambitions alive.
Late tries by Tevita Mailau and Tony Woodcock put the Blues within a converted try with two minutes to play, but the Highlanders held on to jump into the top six in the standings and in contention for a postseason wild-card berth.