Vince Aso scored a hat-trick as the Hurricanes clinched a 61-7 win over the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Following last weekend’s defeat to the Crusaders, in which they failed to score a try, the Hurricanes reaffirmed their status as the supreme attacking team in Super Rugby with a nine-try thumping of the Cheetahs.
The Hurricanes’ centre combination of Aso and Ngani Laumape posed the biggest threat to the Cheetahs’ defensive line. The pair produced a statement performance that saw Laumape set up all three of Aso’s tries with deft passing for the first, a linebreak and offload for the second, and a linebreak and a kick ahead for the third.
What more can be said of these Cheetahs? They show so much promise in the opening stages, only to implode. Apart from the first 15 minutes, when they managed to keep the Hurricanes in check, the Cheetahs were bullied in every department. To make matters worse, they lost influential captain Francois Venter to injury 22 minutes into the game.
The Cheetahs frustrated the Canes with brilliant scramble defence, and might have even taken the lead on two occasions, but poor execution let them down. They turned down a shot at goal in favour of an attacking lineout, but Clayton Blommetjies made the costly mistake of not finding touch. Another example was when flyhalf Fred Zeilinga made a break inside his own half, but instead of keeping possession he tried to offload to no one in particular, with the ball ending up in the hands of Ardie Savea.
The Hurricanes’ first try came from a bizarre decision by Shaun Venter to go short with a 22 restart. His opposite number TJ Perenara read the play beautifully and kicked the ball back into the 22. The Cheetahs retained possession under pressure, but it was all very messy and a daft pass by Raymond Rhule went straight into the hands of Vaea Fifita, who had an easy run-in for the try.
The Hurricanes then started to play with more fluency and potency on attack. Aso went in for their second try from a quick throw-in at the lineout. The midfielder dismissed Sergeal Petersen’s attempted tackle with a vicious hand-off to score. There was a riposte for the Cheetahs with Zeilinga dotting down for a self-converted try, but a third Hurricanes try, scored by Ardie Savea, gave the hosts a 21-7 lead at half-time.
The second half was a complete demolition. The Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men when Elandre Huggett was yellow-carded for repeated infringements, and the Hurricanes pounced by scoring thrice in his absence.
Just after the hour mark, Aso scuttled in to complete his hat-trick and 13th try of the year, which saw him break the Hurricanes’ team record for most tries in a season, set by Tana Umaga in 1997.
There were two further scores for the Hurricanes in the last 10 minutes, by Ben Lam and Leni Apisai, which took them past 60.
Hurricanes – Tries: Vaea Fifita, Vince Aso (3), Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Ben Lam, Leni Apisai. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (5), Otere Black (3).
Cheetahs – Try: Fred Zeilinga. Conversion: Zeilinga.
Hurricanes – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Otere Black, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 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.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Mike Kainga, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jordie Barrett, 23 Ben Lam.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsvel, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ruan van Rensburg.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images