Same old story: NZ team beats Aussie side in Super Rugby
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — New season, same result — a win by a New Zealand side over an Australian team in Super Rugby.
Last year, New Zealand teams won all 26 matches against their trans-Tasman neighbors, and had a 32-match winning streak over Australian sides dating to the latter stages of the 2016 season.
On Friday, the Wellington-based Hurricanes beat the Melbourne Rebels, one of the surprise sides with four wins in five matches to start the season, 50-19 in the first match between Australian and New Zealand teams in 2018.
Make that 33 in a row now. And the Hurricanes’ 11th straight win over Australian opposition.
Earlier at Hamilton, New Zealand, the Chiefs earned consecutive wins against the Highlanders, 27-22, in captain Sam Cane’s 100th Super Rugby match. The Highlanders sustained back-to-back losses after starting the season with three straight wins.
The Hurricanes led 25-19 at halftime in Melbourne after trailing 19-8 early but pulled away in the second half, scoring the final 42 points of the match.
If there was any doubt, Ngani Laumape, the leading Super Rugby try-scorer last season with 15, broke away from at least two tacklers and rumbled over to help give the Hurricanes a 40-19 advantage after 60 minutes.
Winger Ben Lam scored a Super Rugby record-tying four of the Hurricanes’ seven tries. He has six tries in his last two matches.
The Rebels, who finished last with only one win in 2017, won their first three matches this season — unprecedented in the club’s history — before losing to the New South Wales Waratahs 51-27. They returned to winning form last weekend against the Durban-based Sharks, 46-14.
But they were no match for the Hurricanes. All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett scored a try and kicked three conversions and three penalties for 20 points.
“We were really patient, we know we can score points and we showed that in the second half,” Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said.
At Hamilton, winger Solomon Alaimano scored in the last minute of the first half and hooker Nathan Harris in the third minute of the new half to give the Chiefs a 20-7 lead which was the largest in a tight home match.
It seemed tough to bridge for the Dunedin-based Highlanders, who lacked possession in the first spell. But they rallied with tries to winger Tevita Li and Sio Tomkinson to snatch back the lead at 22-20 after 64 minutes.
In a match full of changes of momentum, Sean Wainui scored to put the Chiefs ahead again in the 68th. They then held out a strong finish from the Highlanders, who blew three attacking set-pieces in the last five minutes, a scrum and two lineouts.
“We love these New Zealand derbies and to play one like this at home was special,” Cane said. “It was a pretty gutsy win as well.”
Highlanders captain Ash Dixon said: “Even though they’ve (the Chiefs) got a lot of injuries, they’ve got a lot of spirit, and they’re playing behind a guy who played 100 games today. It didn’t matter who wore that jersey, they stood up and did him proud.”