Skilful Hurricanes rout Rebels
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The defending champion Hurricanes cemented their place at the top of the standings with an eleven-try (71-6) rout of the Rebels in Wellington on Saturday.
It sent out an ominous warning to other teams in the competition.
The Rebels had the best of the possession and enjoyed the territorial advantage in the first half - a period in which the Hurricanes' error count was way above their normally acceptable limits.
However, the Hurricanes still seemed to score almost at will, while the Rebels just could not find a way through the home team's rush defence.
Despite leading 6-0 after an impressive opening 10 minutes, the Rebels found themselves trailing 6-31 at the half-time break and facing a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb.
It didn't get any better for the Rebels after the break, even though - at times - it seemed the Hurricanes went into cruise mode.
The Hurricanes were boosted by returning All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Nehe Milner-Skudder playing starring roles.
Milner-Skudder scored three of the Hurricanes' 11 unanswered tries, while Barrett set up three and kicked six conversions.
It was the Hurricanes second highest score ever, bettered only by the 83 they scored against the Sunwolves last week in Tokyo, when they notched 13 tries.
"When we were quite direct and kept things simple, we opened them up," said captain Dane Coles, who sat out the Sunwolves game, along with Barrett and Milner-Skudder.
"It's very pleasing, the attack's going good and we're going to enjoy the win."
It was the Rebels, who received a tongue-lashing from coach Tony McGahan after an 18-56 loss to the Blues last week, who made the early running.
They were rewarded with two penalties to Reece Hodge before Barrett and Milner-Skudder sparked the Hurricanes to life in the 17th minute.
Barrett drew in three tacklers then sent a short pass to Milner-Skudder, who showed no sign of rust after 12 months out with a shoulder injury, launching into a trademark sidestep before crossing the line.
Barrett's chip kick set up wing Vince Aso for the Hurricanes' second a few minutes later.
Ngani Laumape made it three on the back of a dominant Hurricanes scrum then Aso broke down the wing with TJ Perenara to add a fourth.
It was Aso's second brace in as many matches but the Hurricanes were not done, with Barrett setting up another try before half-time, this time for Matt Proctor.
Ardie Savea piled on more misery for the Rebels two minutes after the restart when his older brother Julian set him up for a five-pointer.
Hurricanes players were lining up to score by this stage, with Reed Prinsep and Julian Savea dotting down tries before Milner-Skudder completed his hat-trick.
He outpaced the defence to dive into the corner for his second and his third came after a surging run from Jordie Barrett.
Laumape then intercepted a loose pass and dashed two-thirds the length of the field for his second to complete a horror night for the Rebels.
Man of the match: Nehe Milner-Skudder made a sensational return to the game after a lengthy injury lay-off, scoring a hat-trick, Julian Savea and Ardie Savea were both impressive, TJ Perenara did everything you would expect of a scrumhalf. However, the conductor directing this impressive Hurricanes orchestra of classic rugby is flyhalf Beauden Barrett and our man of the match.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Milner-Skudder 3, Aso 2, Laumape 2, Proctor, A Savea, Prinsep, J Savea
Cons: B Barrett 6, Black 2
For the Melbourne Rebels:
Pens: Hodge 2
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23. Ben Volavola.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
@rugby365com & AFP