WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Wellington Hurricanes scored four unanswered tries in the first 21 minutes before holding off a Melbourne Rebels fightback after the break to run out 29-19 winners in their Super Rugby clash on Saturday.
Centre Ngani Laumape, flyhalf Beauden Barrett, winger Wes Goosen and flanker Vaea Fifita all crossed in the early onslaught at Wellington Stadium to set the 2016 champions on their way to their fourth straight win.
The Hurricanes will be disappointed with what followed, however, as they failed to add to their 26-point haul until fullback Jordie Barrett’s long-range penalty in the 75th minute.
After thrashing the Waikato Chiefs 47-19 in their previous outing, another bumper bonus point win looked likely but the Hurricanes succumbed to error and ill-discipline as the Rebels hit back.
Lock Matt Philip finally got the visitors on the scoreboard when he crossed in the 53rd minute and tries from centres Billy Meakes and Reece Hodge gave the Rebels hopes of an unlikely comeback victory.
Hodge’s try in the corner after his pack had won a turnover cut the deficit to seven points with 10 minutes on the clock but the Rebels were unable to force another score and Jordie Barrett’s late penalty put the match out of their reach.
The victory kept the Hurricanes in second place in the New Zealand conference after 11 matches, six points behind the Canterbury Crusaders but well clear of the Otago Highlanders in third.
The Rebels will rue several missed chances but more so the missed tackles during the early try blitz when a repeat of their 71-6 humbling on their last visit to the New Zealand capital looked on the cards.
They remained top of the Australian Conference despite their third straight defeat even if the New South Wales Waratahs and ACT Brumbies could overtake them with bonus point victories in their matches later on Saturday.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly