Hurricanes 71 Rebels 6

Several moments in this one-sided clash encapsulated the gulf in skill between the two sides.

We will highlight one for you.

Replacement hooker Ricky Riccitelli fired a cutout pass off his left hand which hit Nehe Milner-Skudder on his chest and the fullback, who was full of running, crossed in spectacular fashion for the second of his hat-trick of tries in his comeback game. That was in the 70th minute, but there were plenty of other examples throughout the clash at the Cake Tin where the Hurricanes forwards backed their skill and threw caution to the wind, knowing that they were faster and better equipped for multi-phase play than the outmatched Melbourne Rebels.

Hell, Ardie Savea and Brad Shields both attempted chip kicks which were not far from paying off. It was a stark illustration of the growing confidence in the defending champions who rocketed to the top of the log a week ago and will not be pushed off this week at least.


And yet, funnily enough, the Rebels commanded the first 10 minutes. Reece Hodge banged over a monster penalty goal and forwards such as Amanaki Mafi and Lopeti Timani took the direct route through the middle of the ruck. All this under sunny Wellington skies and with a crowd of a touch over 15,000.

The Hurricanes looked half asleep, as though they were believing their own press. Then Beauden Barrett seized the day. After 30 largely undistinguished minutes this season, he launched a chip over the top. It almost came off, but the Hurricanes had rediscovered their offensive flow and there was no stopping them.

Working off a dominant scrum and with the loose trio of Reed Prinsep, Brad Shields and Ardie Savea complementing each other to telling effect, the Hurricanes backs started to make serious inroads. Ngani Laumape was direct at second five, scoring two tries and firing his team over the gain line. TJ Perenara, who was sniping all day, showed some exquisite touches, as did Barrett, while Vince Aso is clearly enjoying himself on the right wing, where the first half action, at least, flowed to him more than it did Julian Savea. Aso scored a double, as he did in Tokyo. Savea the Elder did not feel too left out, making several strong carries in the second stanza, and setting up his younger brother for a sweet five-pointer.

Milner-Skudder's dancing feet were in full evidence, and one would have to think that the crowds should push upwards and over 20,000 if this is the style of rugby the defending champions are going to bring on a regular basis.

The Hurricanes will have a clearer idea of just how good they are next Friday night when they travel to Hamilton to face the 2-0 Chiefs, while the Rebels will have the bye round to regroup before they too face the Chiefs on March 17.

Hurricanes 71 (N. Milner-Skudder 3, N. Laumape 2, V. Aso 2, M. Proctor, A. Savea, J. Savea, R. Prinsep tries; B. Barrett 6 cons, O. Black 2 cons)
Rebels 6 (R. Hodge 2 pens)
HT: 31-6