Hurricanes crush Cheetahs in Wellington
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Hurricanes got back to winning ways when they crushed the Cheetahs 61-7 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
The home side scored nine tries on their way to victory, with electrifying centre Vince Aso crossing the whitewash on three occasions.
The bonus-point win lifted the defending champions up to second in the New Zealand conference, overtaking the Chiefs who lost to the front-running Crusaders on Friday.
A week on from their tryless performance when also beaten the Crusaders, the defending champion Hurricanes rediscovered the route to the tryline led by Aso.
It was not champagne rugby in the first half with the 'Canes scoring three tries to turn with a 21-7 lead, but they opened up after the break with a further six tries and 40 points.
They finished with a team record scoreline over the Cheetahs, easily exceeding the 60-27 win when they last met in Wellington two years ago.
In the first half, two tries in three minutes midway through the spell snapped an evenly fought first quarter.
The opening points came from a comedy of errors when the Hurricanes lost possession with an attacking scrum.
But when Raymond Rhule tried to run the Cheetahs out of trouble he fired a wayward pass to Hurricanes lock Vaea Fifita who was able to canter over the line unopposed.
From the restart, the Hurricanes were much more assured when they immediately stormed back on attack for Aso to score his first try.
But from looking like championship contenders one minute, the Hurricanes just as quickly lost their composure as they opened a path for Fred Zeilinga to score the Cheetahs try.
It was not until just on half-time, Ardie Savea bagged the Hurricanes third try when he barrelled over from close range.
The Cheetahs effort could not be faulted. They were prepared to attack from all areas and defended gallantly but they suffered from basic errors and did not help themselves at the start of the second half when Elandre Huggett received a yellow card.
While he was off the field the Hurricanes added 14 points with tries to Aso and Thomas Perenara with Aso's second ending a length of the field move sparked by his midfield partner Ngani Laumape.
Their double act featured again when another Laumape break and chip kick produced Aso's third try.
Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Ben Lam and Leni Apisai also scored for the Hurricanes with Beauden Barrett landing five conversions and Otere Black kicking three.
With the pressure on the New Zealand players to impress the All Blacks selectors ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour next month, Barrett took over the kicking duties for the Hurricanes and had a 100 percent record until he was replaced.
In doing so he proved a better marksman than the Chiefs' Aaron Cruden who managed only one from three against the Crusaders before letting regular kicker Damian McKenzie take over.
Man of the match: The Hurricanes midfield were once again deadly on attack. Ngani Laumape had a hand in a number of tries, while Vince Aso scored three of his team's nine tries. Aso gets the award this week.
Tries: Fifita, Aso 3, A Savea, To'omaga-Allen Perenara, Lam, Apisai
Cons: B Barrett 5, Black 3
Yellow card: Elandré Huggett (Cheetahs, 44 - repeated infringements at the maul)
Hurricanes: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jordie Barrett, 23 Ben Lam.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ruan van Rensburg.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)