WELLINGTON – A late penalty by Jordie Barrett ensured the Hurricanes held off a fast-finishing Melbourne Rebels to claim their Super Rugby clash 29-19 in Wellington on Saturday.
After the Canes had produced a dynamic opening quarter with four tries to lead 26-0, the Rebels fought their way back to trail by just seven points with five minutes to go.
But their hopes of snatching at least a draw were dashed when Barrett slammed over a 45-metre penalty on the angle to extend the Hurricanes margin.
The Rebels had the chance to at least earn a bonus point but a penalty by Quade Cooper, from close range, went wide.
“It was a classic game of two halves,” said Hurricanes captain Beauden Barrett.
“I’d hate to see the territory stats in that second half, but you have to give credit to the Rebels, who came out firing in the second half, and we can learn a lot from how we finished.”
In the clash between the second best New Zealand side and the leading Australian club, the Canes outscored the Rebels four tries to three.
The Hurricanes have now won eight of 11 matches, while the Rebels were reduced to five out of 10.
The blistering start by the Hurricanes saw them use their international firepower to put two converted tries on the board inside the opening eight minutes.
They feasted off a woeful defensive effort from the Rebels, who missed 24 tackles in the first 40 minutes.
The Rebels could claim an advantage in the forwards and with their celebrated halves pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper unable to launch any threatening moves out wide, they played to their pack in the second half and it produced results.
At the start of the game, the Hurricanes ran straight and the gaps opened up, although not for the first try by Ngani Laumape, who steam-rolled his way through three defenders.
Beauden Barrett scored the second try from a standard double-around move, and right wing Wes Goosen’s try came from fullback Jordie Barrett coming into the backline to create an overlap.
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A relieved Hurricanes secured victory in Wellington, despite three second-half tries from the Rebels threatening an upset.
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There was a touch of creativity with the fourth try when hooker Asafo Aumua sent Will Genia flying as he galloped towards the line before sending a lob pass for Vaea Fifita to score near the posts.
When the Rebels switched tactics at the start of the second half, keeping the game around their forward power, they were eventually rewarded when lock Matt Phillip charged over.
Billy Meakes added the second before try before the powerful Rebels pack won turnover ball from a Canes defensive scrum, and the ball went wide for Reece Hodge to score.
But when Jordie Barrett kicked his penalty, it was too late for the Rebels to complete their comeback.AFP