Ben Lam proved to be a handful once again for the Hurricanes. Photo: David Fernandez/EPA

WELLINGTON – Star wing Ben Lam scored a hat trick of tries as the Hurricanes cruised to a Super Rugby 28-19 win over the Lions at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

The Lions’ Super Rugby campaign has hit another stumbling block after they failed to front up on defence against a Hurricanes side who were simply too clinical and classy with ball-in-hand.

Although a look at the final scoreline shows that just nine points separated the two teams, the fact is that the Lions never looked remotely capable of claiming victory in this contest, with the Johannesburg-based side trailing from the eighth minute until the last.

Following last weekend’s disappointing loss to the Reds, the pressure is beginning to build on a Lions side that will still have to face the Highlanders in Dunedin next weekend before they can return to the comforts of their Ellis Park fortress.

The Lions endured a horror start when both Ruan Combrinck and Lionel Mapoe slipped off attempted tackles on Lam, who darted away to score in the eighth minute. To make matters worse, star hooker Malcolm Marx had to leave the field after picking up an apparent hamstring injury.

As it turned out, it would be from a lost lineout that the Lions found their defence exposed for the second time as Matt Proctor broke away before offloading for Ardie Savea to score just after the quarter-hour mark.

In fairness, that first 20 minutes completely belonged to the home side, who enjoyed as much as 70 percent of possession and applied relentless pressure through their high-tempo attack.

Although the opening stanza had seen the Hurricanes dominate pretty much from start to finish, their high turnover rate proved costly, while the Lions managed to strike back just before the break when scrumhalf Nic Groom finished off an opportunistic try.

That cut the deficit to just seven points at halftime, but the Canes restored a two-try advantage when Lam again showed great strength and skill to dot down in the corner soon after the restart.

The Hurricanes continued to expose the Lions’ weary defence when Lam was put away for his hat trick in the 53rd minute, although this was quickly cancelled out when flank Marnus Schoeman did well to score for the Lions immediately after.

To the Lions’ credit, they did look like the better side during the final quarter – with Sylvian Mahuza scoring a late consolation try – but there was simply too much ground for the visitors to make up.

Points-Scorers

Hurricanes 28 – Tries: Ben Lam (3), Ardie Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (4).
Lions 19 – Tries: Nic Groom, Marnus Schoeman, Sylvian Mahuza. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).

African News Agency (ANA)