Wellington - Scrumhalf TJ Perenara emphatically stamped his future All Blacks credentials into the national consciousness on Saturday as the Wellington Hurricanes demolished the Melbourne Rebels 66-24 in their Super Rugby match.
The 20-year-old was widely considered unlucky not to have made Steve Hansen's extended All Blacks training squad, which re-assembles on Sunday in New Zealand's capital before being thinned down for three tests against Ireland next month.
At the Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday, the lively Perenara appeared to have a point to prove as he sniped around the fringes, set his backline away with crisp passing and bamboozled the Rebels defence with intelligent kicking as the Hurricanes ran in nine tries.
The bonus-point victory kept alive the Hurricanes slim hopes of making the top-six playoffs as they moved to 40 points and into seventh place in the standings.
The Rebels, who had won their two previous games, did not help themselves with terrible ball retention at the breakdown and an inability to adapt their defensive pattern as the home side mixed up their attack.
Such was the Hurricane's attacking potency, seven of the tries were scored by the back three, with winger Julian Savea grabbing a hat-trick, while fullback Andre Taylor and Alapati Leiua scored two each.
Loose forward Jack Lam and replacement scrumhalf Chris Eaton grabbed the other tries for the Hurricanes.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett was flawless converting all nine tries and slotting an early penalty for 21 points, which gave him 158 for the season, surpassing the record 152 that John Preston scored in 1997 for the Wellington side.
The victory was also the most points the Hurricanes had scored in a game, surpassing the 64-32 they achieved against Northern Transvaal in 1997.
Rebels winger Cooper Vuna took advantage of the Hurricanes' weak tackling inside the first five minutes to score a try, then grabbed an intercept for his second just before halftime as the Hurricanes flung the ball wide inside their own 22.
Replacement hooker Adam Freier grabbed the final try after the fulltime hooter, which Richard Kingi converted.
The Melbourne side were also hampered by an injury to Wallabies utility back Kurtley Beale, who went off shortly after halftime and failed to add to his two conversions and penalty.
Inside centre Lachlan Mitchell was also knocked unconscious in a crunching tackle by replacement hooker Motu Matu'u, which held up play for several minutes in the second half. - Reuters