WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Wellington Hurricanes struggled to get their high octane attack going but still had just enough to overcome an obdurate Queensland Reds side 38-34 on Friday and notch up their 10th straight Super Rugby victory.
Winger Ben Lam nabbed his 13th and 14th tries of the campaign to stand one shy of a Super Rugby record and there were also scores from number eight Blade Thomson, lock Sam Lousi and flyhalf Beauden Barrett, who added 13 points with the boot.
The Reds, humbled 63-28 by the Sunwolves last week, brought a physicality to the contest that would have made coach Brad Thorn proud but were unable to prevent Australia’s winless streak against New Zealand opposition from reaching 40 matches.
Tries from winger Filipo Daugunu and hooker Taniela Tupou helped them to a 20-14 lead after 26 minutes with the other winger, Jordan Petaia, and centre Samu Kerevi crossing after the break to keep the visitors in the match for the full 80 minutes.
“There’s a reason why they are the best team in the comp at the moment,” Reds skipper Scott Higginbotham said in post-match interview. “But it was a huge display of character from our boys after last week’s disappointment.”
The win put the Hurricanes back on top of the competition standings by three points pending the Canterbury Crusaders’ match on Saturday with the two most recent champions scheduled to meet in Christchurch next week.
The 2016 champions might have expected an easier ride from a Reds side that has only won four of their 11 matches this season and it looked to be going to plan when Barrett cantered over the line in the seventh minute.
Lam smashed through a couple of defenders with the ball in one hand to grab the first of his brace seven minutes later and the Reds were only able to stay in touch through two Jono Lance penalties.
Tupou, nicknamed the Tongan Thor, bulldozed his way through three defenders for a try in the 21st minute, however, and when Kerevi cut through the midfield and found Daugunu on his outside five minutes later, the Reds were in front.
Thomson pirouetted over the line to give the Hurricanes back the lead before the break and when Lam made amends for dropping the ball with the line at his mercy with his second try after 49 minutes, the home side were 31-20 to the good.
Another tackler-scattering charge from Tupou after 53 minutes sent debutant teenager Petaia in for a third Reds try and even Lousi’s score was not enough to kill off the visitors, with Kerevi’s reply making for a tense last six minutes.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O'Brien