Hurricanes blow Highlanders away
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Hurricanes bounced back from last week's loss to the Chiefs in emphatic fashion, with a 41-15 demolition of the Highlanders in Wellington on Saturday.
The defending champions put on display their full array of skills.
The Highlanders will have thought they were in with a shout when they trailed by just two points, 8-10, at the half-time break.
However, a five-try second-half rout by the Hurricanes put into perspective the Wellington-based franchise' class.
It was the recovery performance the defending champions were looking for, after suffering their first loss of the season last week.
Although it took a late first half try to bullocking centre Ngani Laumape to give them a 10-8 lead at the turn, the Hurricanes moved up several gears after the resumption.
Captain Dane Coles said it was a reward for their brand of rugby.
"We talked about getting that enjoyment back this week," Coles said.
"We love using the ball and having a bit of fun and that worked well for us tonight," he said, adding they also worked on restricting scoring opportunities for the Highlanders.
"Our discipline was a major factor and our defence was outstanding. Two things we really worked on during the week and they paid dividends."
While All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett was without his kicking radar, missing four conversions, his younger brother Jordie had an outstanding game.
He set up Laumape's first try with a pin-point cross-kick and at the start of the second half, he produced an audacious behind-the-back pass while holding off Matt Faddes to send Matt Proctor over the tryline.
That was the spark the Hurricanes needed to ignite their 31-point second half and to extend their winning home run to eight matches in Wellington.
But for the Highlanders, champions just two years ago, it continued a tough run of playing their first four games against the four other New Zealand franchises and having a solitary win over the Blues to show for it.
They also lost Malakai Fekitoa who failed a concussion test to add to their growing injury list.
Laumape and Vince Aso both scored twice for the Hurricanes with Ardie and Julian Savea as well as Proctor adding tries and Beauden Barrett landed three conversions.
For the Highlanders, Faddes and Elliot Dixon scored tries, Marty Banks kicked one conversion and Fletcher Smith kicked a penalty.
The Highlanders head to Canberra to play the ACT Brumbies next week while the Hurricanes have a bye.
Man of the match: The Highlanders' two All Black Smiths, Ben and Aaron, were - as always - great value. Aaron Smith probably had his best game in more than a year. However, the best players were in the Hurricanes line-up - Beauden Barrett (another flyhalf masterclass, although his goal-kicking leaves a lot to be desired), TJ Perenara (even with the yellow card for a high tackle he had a good day at the office), Ardie Savea (fast and physical), Brad Shields (a real nuisance at the breakdown) and the energetic captain Dane Coles. However, our award goes Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape - who showed he is so much more than just brute force. Not many players will steamroller Ben Smith, but there was a great weaving run before he brushed Smith aside on his way to a try.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: A Savea, Laumape 2, Proctor, J Savea, Aso 2
Cons: B Barrett 2, J Barrett
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Faddes, Dixon
Pen: F Smith
Yellow card: TJ Perenara (Hurricanes, 44 - foul play, high tackle), Tevita Li (Highlanders, 78 - foul play, no-arms tackle)
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Wes Goosen.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Matt Faddes.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)