By Jake Beleski
HURRICANES 71 REBELS 6
The Hurricanes could not have asked for a better start to their 2017 campaign, but consecutive wins by over 60 points leaves more questions than answers.
Are the defending champions really that far ahead of the chasing pack?
Or were their two opponents to date just as hopeless as they appeared?
You get the feeling the latter is true, meaning we will not get a true indication of where the Hurricanes are at until they square off with the Chiefs in Hamilton this Friday night.
But, as the saying goes, you can only play the team put in front of you, and the Hurricanes have blown the Sunwolves and Rebels off the park seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Saturday’s match started brightly enough for the Rebels, as they raced to a 6-0 lead courtesy of two penalties, giving no indication of what was to come.
The turnaround started with Hurricanes’ fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, who demonstrated his quality footwork on numerous occasions and crossed for the first try.
The passes that were going to ground in the first quarter of the match started to find their mark, and the Hurricanes ran in a further four tries in the first half, including a double to wing Vince Aso.
It didn’t get much better for the Rebels at the start of the second half, as Julian Savea made a blistering break before finding brother Ardie to scamper away for a try in just the 42nd minute.
The Rebels managed to stem the flow for the next 15 minutes, without ever threatening to create any points themselves.
Eventually No 8 Reed Prinsep got the Hurricanes over the line again, before TJ Perenara, one of the Hurricanes’ best on the day, created a superb try for Julian Savea in the corner.
That brought up the half century of points, and with it the Rebels threw up the white flag.
Two quick tries in the final 10 minutes gave Milner-Skudder his hat-trick in his first match since round three last year, before Ngani Laumape grabbed a 60m intercept try to complete the scoring and ensure the Hurricanes would top the points table after two rounds.
There were plenty of individuals that stood out in a dominant Hurricanes’ performance, but the real challenges for this playing group are yet to be confronted.
In the halves Perenara and Beauden Barrett picked up where they left off last year in their first outing together for 2017, while the successful return of Milner-Skudder will have Hurricanes’ and All Blacks’ fans alike filled with excitement.
Ardie Savea and Brad Shields shone in the forwards, although it was to be expected against a team offering minimal resistance.
Scorers: Hurricanes 71 (N. Milner-Skudder 3, V. Aso 2, N. Laumape 2, M. Proctor, A. Savea, R. Prinsep, J. Savea tries; B Barrett 6 con, O. Black 2 con) Rebels 6 (R. Hodge 2 pen).