The Chiefs hopes of winning their third succesive Super Rugby title suffered a blow when they were hammered 45-8 by the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Chiefs started the round in third place and on top of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference but have dropped out of the top six and are now second last in the Conference. The Hurricanes outscored the current champions by six tries to one in the clash. The Hurricanes, bouncing back from a loss to the Highlanders last week, have now won six of their past eight games after starting the year as one of the least fancied sides.
They laid the ground work for the rout playing into the wind in the first half when they stunned the Chiefs with three tries that originated inside their own half. Despite the Hurricanes leading the competition in clean breaks and defenders beaten, the Chiefs seemed unprepared for their ability to attack from afar. As the tries mounted against them, the confidence waned in the two-times champion Chiefs whose reputation for piling on the points in the second half was left in tatters and their brief scoring completed very early in the match.
Not even the return of fly-half Aaron Cruden, after a lengthy spell sidelined with a broken thumb, could ignite the Chiefs. In his battle with Barrett to determine who will be named next weekend as the All Blacks pivot in place of the unavailable Dan Carter, it was Barrett who made the most of his chances, and converted all six tries as well.
Battling into a stiff southerly breeze in the first half, the Hurricanes toyed with the stilted Chiefs defence with Andre Taylor scoring first, ending a 60-metre move ignited by All Blacks wing Julian Savea. Fellow All Blacks flyer Corey Jane sparked the second try from inside the Hurricanes’ half before off-loading to Barrett who took play up to the line where prop Ben Franks loomed up to finish the move.
Centre Alapati Leiua started off the third try scoring move, which Savea finished off. The Chiefs, who had used the wind to kick for territory in the first half, had scant reward with only a penalty to Gareth Anscombe and a try to Liam Squire during his brief cameo as a blood-bin replacement for Sam Cane. After a Barrett penalty extended the lead to 24-8 soon after half-time, Savea scored the bonus-point try from another long-range effort in which Barrett, twice, Jane and Leuia all handled in a move that swept half the field.
They Hurricanes then showed they could score from close range with forwards Jack Lam and Brad Shield both driving over.
Final Score Hurricanes 45 (21) Chiefs 8 (8)
Tries – A.Taylor, B.Franks, J.Savea 2, J.Lam, B.Shields
Pen – B.Barett
Con – B.Barrett 6
Cards – R. Goodes 54th min (yellow)
Tries – L.Squire
Pen – G.Anscombe
Cards – B. Retallick (59th min yellow)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser.
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Lash
TMO: Chris Wratt.