The Hurricanes have defeated the Melbourne Rebels 19-29 in Wellington this afternoon in a game of vastly contrasting halves.
Twenty-six unanswered points in the first half by the hosts proved too big a headstart for the Rebels to reel in, despite a second half comeback that had the fans on either side of the Tasman on the edge of their seats.
The swirling breeze was evident from the outset as a Reece Hodge 55-metre penalty attempt was fine for distance but pushed wide by the wind. Moments later, a clearing Quade Cooper kick for touch was dealt the same fate, the ball staying in-field and finding Ngani Laumape 40m out instead of the safety of touch.
The rampaging centre beat several defenders on his way to the tryline and the Hurricanes has the first points of the game.
Beauden Barrett complemented his teammates effort moments later, using his pace from a second man play from an attacking lineout to slice open the Rebels midfield defence for an attacking set piece masterclass.
The Hurricanes next points would come after demonstrating a incredible patience; holding onto possession for twelve phases inside the Rebels 22 until the Melburnians eventually cracked. With the defensive line contracting, a wide and flat Beauden Barrett flat pass found Wes Goosen unmarked on the right edge for an easy stroll to the line.
By the 20th minute the Hurricanes had amassed their fourth try of the game, multiple linebreaks eventually affording Vaea Fifita possession with a three on two which he craftily kept for himself for another try. It was 0-26.
It would take until the 25th minute before the Rebels would visit their opposition’s quarter of the field.
Sustained pressure forced the hosts to infringe on multiple occasions but despite the gluttony of possession, the Rebels were unable to walk into the sheds with any points.
In fact, if not for a desperate defensive effort on Ardie Savea who fumbled over the line, the Hurricanes would have added a fifth try in the shadows of halftime.
Despite the scoreline, one major positive for the Rebels at half time was the stability of their scrum, time and time again rescuing the Melburnians from desperate situations.
An early second half scrum penalty gave the Rebels field position to launch repeated attacking lineouts, as three successive five metre lineouts were successfully repelled by the hosts, damaging the hopes of the visitors.
Instead it would be the scrum that would prove the springboard for the Rebels first try of the game in the 53rd minute. A Reece Hodge linebreak from first phase was capitalised on by a hard-running Matt Philip on second phase who skewered the retreating defence and galloped away for five points.
The introduction of Pone Fa'amausili in the unaccustomed role of a ball-running backrower proved inspired; the 130kg wrecking ball punching a hole with his first touch and finding Isi Naisarani and then Billy Meakes in support for a try from the replacement centre.
The Rebels’ replacements were having a telling impact; Campbell Magnay and Ross Haylett-Petty making strong and repeated linebreaks to put the Hurricanes under immense pressure.
Marika Koroibete went close to scoring after a neat Maddocks loop pass took him to within three metres of the line, a second masterful ball from Maddocks to find Hodge on the other sideline later in that same series of play saw Reece go over untouched in the 70th minute.
Cooper’s sideline conversion went wide but the Rebels were within a converted try at 19-26.
A Jordie Barrett 45-metre penalty effort in the 75th minute arrested the momentum and gave the hosts the benefit of a ten-point buffer, the last score as the match would finish 19-29.
That penalty would prove extra costly, denying the Rebels a bonus point as the clock wound down and the hosts preserved their lead.
Tries: Laumape, B. Barrett, Goosen, Fifita
Conversions: B. Barrett (3)
Penalties: J. Barrett
Tries: Philip, Meakes, Hodge
Conversions: Cooper (2)