The Hurricanes overcame a half-time deficit to defeat the Rebels 36-12 in Wellington on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Tries from TJ Perenara, Cory Jane, Callum Gibbins and a brace from Nehe Milner-Skudder were enough to secure a record-equalling seventh consecutive win for the Canes as they continue to set the pace at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby standings.
It was hardly the polished performance we've come to expect from this season's front-runners, as they struggled at the scrums and breakdowns. The Rebels, as they had done last week against the Lions, failed to hold onto a half-time lead, despite dominating possession and territory in the second half.
The Hurricanes rested the likes of Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea for the match and struggled to impose themselves on their visitors during the first half, as they trailed 12-10 at the break.
The Rebels defence was in a combative mood, and they bossed the breakdown area, while Mike Harris was typically accurate from the kicking tee and punished the hosts for any indiscretions.
It was Harris who opened the scoring in the eighth minute, before the Hurricanes hit back through a well-worked Perenara try after the Rebels failed to find touch with a clearing kick.
The Canes would hit the front early in the second half as Jane went over in the corner following a rare foray into Rebels territory. The Hurricanes' third try came against the run of play, with Gibbins capitalising on a favourable bounce to race clear and score.
The Rebels responded with a period of sustained pressure in the Hurricanes 22 and a succession of penalties brought an inevitable yellow card for Perenara. Even with their numerical advantage, the Rebels were unable to breach the Hurricanes' wall of defence, as the hosts ran in two further tries through Milner-Skudder to add gloss to the scoreline.
Hurricanes – Tries: TJ Perenara, Cory Jane, Ardie Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder (2). Conversions: Jason Woodward (4). Penalty: Woodward.
Rebels – Penalties: Mike Harris (4).
Hurricanes – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Tom English, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Cadeyrn Naville, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Jonah Placid.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images