MELBOURNE – The Melbourne Rebels scored their first win over the Highlanders since 2013 on Friday, while All Black centre Ngani Laumape scored a hat-trick of tries as the Hurricanes demolished the Brumbies.
On a hot evening, with the temperatures topping 32 Celsius when the game kicked off, the Rebels upset the Highlanders 24-19, with the visitors denied a try on review with 90 seconds remaining.
In Palmerston North, Laumape ran riot as the Hurricanes scored six tries to two in their 43-13 win, with skipper Dane Coles contributing a brace.
All Black pivot Beauden Barrett also made an eye-catching first appearance for the season, kicking six of seven chances.
The Rebels, who beat the Brumbies in their opening match before a bye last weekend, look a different team this season, with Quade Cooper recruited from the Reds to resume a dynamic halves partnership with fellow Wallaby Will Genia.
It was their first win in six years against the Highlanders, who were handicapped by star All Blacks Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith being rested in a World Cup year.
“We just took the foot off the throat a bit in the second half,” said Rebels skipper Dane Haylett-Petty.
“In the first half, we weathered a storm and really got on top of them. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the way the boys played.”
The Highlanders got the early advantage with Shannon Frizell scoring his fourth try of the season after just three minutes when the bounce from a brilliant cross-field kick fell his way.
It woke up the Rebels and with Genia directing play they began applying pressure, which paid off when Haylett-Petty held off a defender before offloading to Tom English for the touchdown.
Siate Tokolahi put the Highlanders back in the lead, before Genia whipped a pass out to Cooper who drew in the defender and then popped the ball to charging wing Jack Maddocks, who crossed for an easy try.
Minutes later, English bagged his second to send the Rebels into the break 19-12 in front.
They stretched their lead further when a brilliant Cooper grubber kick bounced favourably for Billy Meekes, who celebrated with some dance moves.
Rebels v Highlanders | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 3 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) March 1, 2019
The @MelbourneRebels break their drought against New Zealand teams and hold on for a huge 24-19 win against the @Highlanders in a hot and humid Melbourne#SuperRugby #REBvHIG pic.twitter.com/TY6pys2UJH
The Highlanders, who had won their two previous games, hauled themselves back into contention with Jackson Hemopo getting his first Super Rugby try.
But despite piling on the pressure, the Rebels frantically held on with Frizell denied a try with less than two minutes left when he lost the ball over the line.
In Palmerston North, Coles said the Hurricanes were determined to bounce back after a heavy loss to reigning champions Crusaders last week.
“From the start we turned up and really played our game,” he said. “We worked hard all week, had a bit of soul searching, and I’m just really pleased with the attitude the boys showed tonight.”
The result was a reality check for the Brumbies who stunned the Chiefs 54-17 last week.
“Things can turn really quickly in this competition and we came up against a really good Hurricanes side,” captain Christian Lealiifano said.
Hurricanes v Brumbies | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 3 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) March 1, 2019
The @Hurricanesrugby turn it on after half time in Palmerstown North for an impressive 43-13 victory over the visiting @BrumbiesRugby. pic.twitter.com/PHDEGq2Czq
The match was scoreless for the first 12 minutes until Coles scored an intercept try, and Laumape added a second two minutes later.
The Brumbies stayed in touch with a trademark try from hooker Folau Fainga’a, but the Hurricanes hit back with a second for Coles.
Not to be outdone, Laumape crossed for his second shortly after halftime, sending two defenders sprawling as he powered to the line.
His third was more speed than strength, outpacing three defenders before dotting down between the posts.AFP