WELLINGTON – The Hurricanes outmuscled Japan’s vastly improved Sunwolves for a 43-15 bonus-point win to take them to the top of the Super Rugby standings at the Westpac Stadium on Friday.
The Hurricanes notched seven tries to two, including a brace for Vince Aso, although three late efforts gave the scoreboard a lopsided look that did not reflect the Sunwolves’ efforts.
Thrashed 83-17 last year in their only previous meeting with the Hurricanes, they opened the scoring in Wellington and dominated possession.
But the Sunwolves’ South African captain Lappies Labuschagne said their finishing let them down.
“We just couldn’t get over the line, but we stuck in there right until the end and gave it our all,” he said.
“We couldn’t get that final pass and that’s something we’ll have a look at, but I’m really proud of the boys.”
Hurricanes skipper Brad Shields said his side needed to muster a huge defensive effort before finally unleashing their formidable backline attack.
“It was a tough battle and the Sunwolves certainly turned up to play,” he said.
“I’m very pleased with the way we defended and to come out and score a couple of tries at the end was awesome.”
The signs looked ominous for the Sunwolves when Aso crossed in the third minute, only for his effort to be disallowed due to a forward pass in the build up.
The visitors responded positively to the reprieve, working the ball through 14 phases before Labuschagne fended off Ardie Savea to score the opening try of the match.
The Hurricanes hit back straight away through Julian Savea, who scooped up Matt Proctor’s offload before crashing over the tryline.
Debutant Finlay Christie made it two for the hosts when Beauden Barrett set him up then kicked the conversion to give the Hurricanes a 14-10 lead.
The Sunwolves then came close to scoring only to concede a try through some sloppy defending just before halftime, when No 8 Reed Princep bolted over the line from the back of a scrum.
The Hurricanes took control after the restart through Jordie Barrett’s 60-metre breakaway try, and Aso had his second five-pointer of the night disallowed.
The Sunwolves also had two tries ruled out, both because of double movements, and pinned the Hurricanes back in their own half for much of the second half.
The reward came when Kenki Fukuoka sprinted down the wing to collect Yutaka Nagare’s kick and make it 26-15.
But Aso’s luck finally improved as he scored two tries in the dying minutes, which along with a five-pointer to Shields, blew out the score to 43-15.