The Hurricanes have extended Australia’s run of outs in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman – but not quite as emphatically as expected.
Fresh off putting 64 points on the NSW Waratahs, the Hurricanes needed more than an hour to put Melbourne to the sword in an entertaining 35-13 victory over the Rebels in Wellington.
Unlike their second-half surrender in a 50-3 shellacking at the hands of the Blues last week, the Rebels, even while down on troops, produced a vastly improved and spirited performance on Friday night.
“If you look back with about 20, 25 (minutes) to go, we were right in there,” said Rebels captain Matt Toomua.
“The scoreline blew out a little bit at the end there but they’re a classy team. You can’t give them much because they’ll take it.
“But I thought it was a fair old rugby match. I think both teams would agree with that. The game had everything.
“It had a lot of tries and even had a streaker so I think everyone got their money’s worth.”
Despite camping themselves on the Melbourne try line, the Hurricanes scored all 14 of their first-half points only while Rebels prop Cabous Eloff was in the sin bin between the 15th and 25th minutes.
And even the Hurricanes’ first try came against the run of play, with former All Blacks winger Julian Savea intercepting a pass from Rebels flyhalf Carter Gordon and racing 40 metres to score the opener.
Impressive centre Billy Proctor added the Hurricanes’ second and Jordie Barrett’s two conversions gave the hosts a 14-3 lead at the break, with the Rebels’ only points of the half coming via a Matt Toomua penalty goal.
But if the Canes thought the Rebels would fold like they did from a similar scoreline last start, they were mistaken.
The return of Wallabies forward Trevor Hosea and a clear commitment to defence dragged the Rebels back into the contest.
A Michael Wells try shortly after the interval, after a quick tap and sharp pass from Joe Powell, pulled the Rebels back to within six points of the Hurricanes.
But a second try to Savea – which leaves “The Bus” just one shy of the Hurricanes’ all-time Super Rugby record of 56 from Christian Cullen and TJ Perenara – then another from fellow winger Wes Goosen in the space of 10 minutes sealed the Rebels’ fate.
The Hurricanes’ fifth try seven minutes from fulltime clinched a bonus point.
“We had to work bloody hard to get a couple of tries in that first half. They stuck in there,” said Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles.
“But the mindset was to get the bonus point tonight and we did.”
Melbourne’s loss left Australia’s five teams none from six after the Rebels, Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Western Force and Brumbies all lost in round one to New Zealand outfits.