WELLINGTON – The Hurricanes beat the Chiefs 25-13 to top the New Zealand conference Friday after another red-hot display from winger Ben Lam in his break-out Super Rugby season.
The Hurricanes ran in three tries to one to post their sixth consecutive victory, with Lam scoring one five-pointer to extend his tally for the season to a competition-leading nine.
The home side were also bolstered by the return of the 2016 and 2017 World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett, who put his name on the scoresheet as the Hurricanes led throughout.
Lam, formerly an injury-plagued sevens player, pressed his claim for All-Black selection as national coach Steve Hansen watched from the stands.
The result took the Hurricanes' home record to 17 wins from 18 games and ended a two-match losing streak against the Chiefs.
Captain Brad Shields admitted it was not a dominant performance but said the Hurricanes were satisfied as the season enters the half-way mark.
“All in all it was a pretty rough performance but I'm glad we came out with a win,” he said. “But we're building slowly. We've got a bye this week and we're looking forward to putting the feet up.”
Chiefs skipper Sam Cane, whose team suffered their first defeat in six matches, paid tribute to the Hurricanes' scrambling defence.
“They took their opportunities and they created plenty of them,” he said. “We did too but the Hurricanes scramble was just too good for us tonight.”
Both sides had early chances as pivot Damien McKenzie fired the Chiefs' attack and Ben Lam was bundled into touch as he tried to cross in the corner for the Hurricanes.
The big winger made no mistake in the seventh minute, brushing off three defenders to score the opening try.
Barrett, returning from a thigh strain, ankle-tapped Solomona Alaimalo to stop an almost certain try.
The game's tempo was disrupted by a long delay as Chiefs prop Aiden Ross was stretchered off, seemingly with a serious ankle injury.
It roared back to life with a double strike for the Hurricanes early in the second half, taking their lead to 22-6.
Barrett swooped on the ball after Lam dislodged it from Chiefs winger Sean Wainui, then narrowly beat Brodie Retallick in a footrace to the line.
He then sent a perfectly weighted cross-field kick to Ngani Laumape, who beat Anton Lienert Brown in the air and scampered away for a five-pointer.
Lachlan Boshier clawed a try back for the Chiefs but Jordie Barrett sealed the win with a penalty after the siren.