The Wellington Hurricanes provided further evidence that their defense of the Super Rugby title will be a stern one when they crushed the Melbourne Rebels 71-6 in their second match of the season yesterday.
The Hurricanes opened their title defense with an 83-17 win over the Japan-based Sunwolves and followed that 13-try performance with an 11-tries-to-nil victory yesterday.
All Blacks winger Nehi Milner-Skudder scored three tries in his return to Super Rugby after an almost 18-month absence through injury, while winger Vince Aso and center Ngani Laumape had two tries each.
Matt Procter, Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett, Reed Princep and Julian Savea also scored tries as the Hurricanes overwhelmed the Rebels, who showed no improvement from their 56-18 loss to the Auckland Blues in the first round.
While the Hurricanes have achieved victories over two of the weakest teams in their tournament, it was the manner rather than the margin of their wins that was impressive.
After conceding two early penalties to trail 6-0, the Hurricanes dominated every aspect of the match and launched try-scoring movements from any part of the field.
They based that on their domination of set pieces, they were far too strong for the Rebels at breakdown and they were able to create turnovers at will.
“It’s obviously been a pretty good start,” Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. “It’s good the way we carried on that attack from last week.”
In Dunedin, the Canterbury Crusaders scored four second-half tries, including two in the final five minutes, to rally from 27-6 down and beat the Otago Highlanders 30-27 in Dunedin.
Winger Seta Tamanivalu scored the winning try with just over a minute on the clock as the Crusaders exploited a one-man advantage after Highlanders center Malakai Fekitoa was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
Otago winger Waisake Naholo scored two tries and had a hand in a third as the Highlanders, bidding for their third straight win over the Crusaders, secured a 21-point lead just after halftime.
In the third match of seven, some of which began after press time last night, South Africa’s Durban-based Sharks handed the ACT Brumbies their second loss in a row, beating them 27-22 with a late try.
The Sharks scored the match-winning try 60 seconds after the final siren in Canberra when replacement Curwin Bosch put through a kick that surprised the Brumbies defense.
Lukhanyo Am dived on the loose ball for the winner.
“I feel for the Brumbies, I think it was a great game of rugby, but we’re over the moon to get the win,” Sharks captain Patrick Lambie said. “We couldn’t quite put the Brumbies away and thankfully we were the ones who scored last.”
In the fourth game, the Southern Kings from South Africa defeated the Sunwolves 37-23 in Singapore.
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