Rey Lee-Lo stars for Hurricanes in chilly Levin
Centre Reynold Lee-Lo put on a virtuoso performance as the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders 38-17 in a non-competition Super Rugby match tonight.
The Counties-Manukau midfielder set up three of the Hurricanes four first-half tries and scored two himself in the second half to carry on the form he'd shown before the competition's month-long break.
On a freezing night Lee-Lo's actions ensured Super Rugby made an entertaining return to the Horowhenua-Kapiti region in front of about 2000 fans.
The Hurricanes scored six tries to three to beat their southern foes for the third time this year after wins during the preseason and competition proper.
The sides will meet again in the final round of Super Rugby and if the Hurricanes play as well as they did tonight they'll fancy their chances of winning.
Blindside Brad Shields stood out with his big defence before leaving the field with a nasty head cut in the second half, but Lee-Lo was the undoubted star of the show with his ability to offload in contact.
The Crusaders opened the scoring after some slick hands saw fullback Tom Marshall over out wide on 10 minutes for a 5-0 lead.
But it was the Hurricanes who made the majority of the play and it was their faster line speed on defence that shut down the Crusaders backline.
The home side's first try came after Lee-Lo re-gathered his own short kick down the blindside and shuffled a short ball to lock Blade Thomson on 15 minutes.
Thomson showed good pace to get on the outside and skill to swing a pass inside to Reg Goodes who juggled the ball before opening the home side's account.
The Hurricanes then enjoyed their most cohesive period of play, the forwards carrying with authority and cleaning out the ruck efficiently before Richard Buckman ran off Lee Lo's shoulder to push the lead to 14-5.
Prop Joe Moody clawed one back for the visitors when he was driven over near the posts to close to 14-12 but the Hurricanes dominated the 15 minutes before the break.
They scored two tries, the first to Chris Smylie who snuck over at a ruck after a strong lineout drive and the second to second five-eighth Ope Peleseuma, who ran 20 metres off a one handed Lee-Lo offload.
The try extended the Hurricanes halftime lead to 28-12 with fullback Andre Taylor kicked all four conversions.
Lee-Lo scored all the points in the second half, crossing ten minutes after the break with a jinking run, then finishing off a nice break from replacement Nehe Milner-Scudder after 72 minutes.
The final act of the match was a long distance try to Crusaders replacement wing Telusa Veainu, who finished off a break by openside Shane Christie.
Christie toiled hard all night, while Tom Marshall had his moments at fullback in a match where the attack never really got going.
For the Hurricanes, Shields, Faifili Levave, hooker Ash Dixon, halfback Chris Smylie and Peleseuma all played strongly, while prop John Schwalger got through a solid 61 minutes.
If the Hurricanes can play with this sort of confidence they might yet salvage something memorable out of their remaining three Super Rugby matches against the Chiefs, Highlanders and Crusaders.
Hurricanes 38 (Reynold Lee-Lo (2), Reg Goodes, Richard Buckman, Chris Smylie, Ope Pleseuma, Andre Taylor 4 cons) Crusaders 17 (Tom Marshall, Joe Moody, Telusa Veainu tries, Taylor con). HT: 38-12 Hurricanes