Hurricanes rout Rebels in Wellington
Savea scores hattrick in big winTOBY ROBSON
Julian Savea's first Super Rugby hattrick punctuated a Hurricanes coming of age at Westpac Stadium tonight where they simply overran the Melbourne Rebels.
The challenge from the start was something akin to 'can you keep up'?
The answer was emphatically 'no' as the Hurricanes put the visitors to the sword with nine tries during the 66-24 rout.
This was a performance born of the Hurricanes' desire to show their home fans they are not just another topsy-turvy Wellington-based side.
It was spurred by dented pride after four losses from five previous matches at Westpac Stadium this season and a determination not to let another winnable match slip.
This time they gave an 11,474 strong crowd the ruthlessness that was missing during the second half of meltdowns against the Cheetahs and Brumbies.
The Hurricanes' intent was personified by two huge defensive hits from replacement hooker Motu Matu'u on Rebels wing Mark Gerrard and second five-eighth Lachlan Mitchell, who was sadly taken from the field on a golf cart.
It may not prove enough to reach the Super Rugby playoffs, but in this type of mood the Hurricanes would not be out of place and will remain mathematically in the hunt as they head to Sydney next Saturday.
Most of the damage was done out wide where Savea, fullback Andre Taylor, and hard running wing Alapati Leiua found limp resistance, the latter two both helping themselves to a brace.
But this was no glossy romp without substance and it was the hard running of flankers Faifili Levave, who had his best match in a Hurricanes jersey, and Jack Lam that cleared the decks behind a dominant front five.
Throw in a mature and level performance from halves TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, who passed Jon Preston's mark of 152 points for a season in kicking ten of ten attempts for a personal tally of 21 points.
It was the result coaches Mark Hammett and Alama Ieremia have been searching for all season.
Melbourne wing Cooper Vuna continued his strong season with the first try when he barrelled through about four defenders from a lineout win.
But there was an energy to the Hurricanes' play that forced the match to flow their way.
Tim Bateman was darting around in midfield like a firefly, creating havoc wherever he went.
Perenara provided yet another "wow" moment when he ducked down the blindside then turned a pass inside behind his back to Bateman who found a trailing Taylor, whose fingertip control made it 10-all.
Bateman constructed his side's second try when he grubber-kicked down the blind for Leiua to collect, then the Hurricanes smelled blood.
Barrett surged then popped inside, then Conrad Smith kicked in behind and Savea had two tries in two minutes as the score ballooned out to 31-10.
Then there was a moment when all Hurricanes fans had their hearts in their throats.
Bateman threw a wild pass on his 22m line and Vuna grabbed his second.
Was it to be yet another Hurricanes' meltdown? One to mirror the capitulation of last year's match in Melbourne?
Not this time.
When Levave smashed a hole and Lam crashed over for a 38-17 lead it became clear this side was never going to let slip, and it was left to Rebels hooker Adam Frier to salvage something for the visitors when he scored on full time.
The challenge now is to play this way against stiffer opposition including the Chiefs and Crusaders.
Hurricanes 66 (Julian Savea 3, Alapati Leiua 2, Andre Taylor 2, Jack Lam, Chris Eaton tries, Beauden Barrett 9 con, pen)
Rebels 24 (Cooper Vuna 2, Adam Freier tries, Kurtley Beale 2 cons, pen, Richard Kingi con).
HT: 38-17 - Hurricanes
Follow Hurricanes news on Twitter @dp_hurricanes
- © Fairfax NZ News
Who gets your vote as greatest All Black of all time?Related story: With Boks beaten, time for revenge over England