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Hurricanes blow Rebels out of Wellington

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Saturday, March 4, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The 65-point margin was a record for the defending Investec Super Rugby champions.

While it may also have been the first full outing by captain and hooker Dane Coles, first five-eighths and World Rugby player of the year in 2016 Beauden Barrett and hat-tick hero and 2015 Test star Nehe Milner-Skudder, they contributed to a display that had all the hallmarks of a grand reunion, a celebration of Hurricanes style and flair.

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But it wasn't only the superstars who shone. Speedsters Vince Aso and Matt Proctor in the three-quarters, Ngani Laumape in mid-field, No.8 Reed Prinsep joined regulars Brad Shields and Ardie Savea in the loose, Julian Savea on the wing and the superbly ever-present halfback TJ Perenara to contribute to the spectacle.

For good measure, the efforts of flanker Callum Gibbins, hooker Ricky Riccitelli and fullback Jordy Barrett off the bench demonstrated the depths of excitement and ability in the home side.

Early inaccuracies from the home team allowed the Rebels to claim a 6-0 lead after eight minutes courtesy of two penalty goals to Reece Hodge including his first effort from 50m out but that was it for them.

The signs were soon ominous as all the key weapons in the Hurricanes arsenal were unleashed. Ardie Savea with some stirring runs, Perenara sniping around rucks, Beauden Barrett dipping early into his bag of tries with some weighted tactical kicks for both himself and others to run onto while Julian Savea also got an early run, although play didn't run his way too often during the first half.

All of that is not forgetting the immediate impact Milner-Skudder made with trademark footwork and space finding before he crossed in the 16th minute for the first try of the game. Wing Vince Aso picked up two in the first half, the second in the 31st minute, a classic of Hurricanes rugby.
The Rebels were enjoying a rare chance on attack but failed to make it over the line after several attempts. But when a maul saw scrum possession handed to the Hurricanes they escaped the way they know best, by running the ball out from the goalmouth.

Perenara, initially gave the ball to Barrett who fed Laumape. He took it to the ruck on the 22m line, then Perenara ran from the base to open the blindside and feed Aso. Perenara stayed in touch and was then on hand to take Aso's return pass. The cover had Perenara covered so he flicked back to Aso and it was all over – a superb try.

Continuing the theme, and making the most of the tight forwards' individual skills they saw Proctor run back on the angle from out wide to take a reverse pass from Aso to cut back.
No doubt the Rebels, who had a good share of first half possession, were looking to make better use of it in the second but two punishing runs straight after the break by Julian Savea changed that.

The second, after fielding a Rebels clearing kick gave him the chance to bring the ball infield at speed and when the defence was blown away, he had brother Ardie at his side to take the pass and score.

While Beauden Barrett had a try disallowed due to an earlier knock-on, the resulting play saw a tighthead scrum achieved and Milner-Skudder, who had moved to the wing, got close on the right flank. But the ball was spun left and Jordy Barrett, who had come on at fullback, pushed off a defender to set up a ruck from which Prinsep was able to get over to score.

Nic Stirzaker was unfortunate not to have more reward from his work at halfback while there was clear ability shown by No.8 Amanaki Mafi. Big wing Marika Koriobete and on the one occasion he got the chance to get a head of steam up, he was well covered by Julian Savea.

Scorers: Hurricanes 71 (Vince Aso 2, Nehe Milner-Skudder 3, Ngani Laumape 2, Matt Proctor, Ardie Savea, Reed Prinsep, Julian Savea tries; Beauden Barrett 6 con; Otere Black 2 con) Rebels 6 (Reece Hodge 2 pen). HT: 31-6