WELLINGTON – Powerful "Mini Bus" Ngani Laumape drove the Wellington Hurricanes to a 42-24 Super Rugby win over the Auckland Blues on Saturday to all but ensure them a home quarter-final.
Laumape, known as the "Mini Bus" alongside his former All Blacks team-mate Julian "The Bus" Savea, scored four tries as the Hurricanes outscored the Blues six tries to three.
The bonus point win ended a three-match losing streak and lifted the 'Canes five points clear of the Waikato Chiefs who retained a faint mathematical chance of hosting a quarter-final when they held off a fast-finishing ACT Brumbies to win their encounter 24-19.
The two New Zealand clubs clash next week in the final round of the regular season which will determine which side finishes fourth.
Even if the Chiefs draw level with a bonus point win, the differential heavily favours the Hurricanes.
After falling to the Brumbies last week, the Hurricanes need to make an emphatic statement to display their play-off credentials and they did so in the form of the pocket-rocket Laumape.
The 1.71m, 103kg (5ft 7in, 227lb) centre was near unstoppable when he took a head-on approach to the Blues defence. For the first try he scattered three Blues defenders as he put Savea into space to score the opening try.
Laumape scored his first try with a side sidestep to beat Blues fullback Matt Duffie and his second came from another hard run as the Hurricanes raced to a 21-3 lead after 35 minutes. Rieko Ioane scored either side of half-time, with Stephen Perofeta adding to extras for the Blues to close the gap to 21-17.
Beauden Barrett and Akira Ioane then traded tries before Laumape scored his third as a result of brute strength and the fourth from sheer pace in a 50-metre run to the line.