Rugby-Hot Hurricanes remain unbeaten in Super Rugby, Reds stunned in Perth

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 6:17 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The table-topping Wellington Hurricanes maintained their 100% start to the Super Rugby Pacific season in emphatic style in round five but the Queensland Reds, second at the start of the weekend, were stunned by the previously winless Western Force.

The Hurricanes welcomed back All Blacks centre Jordie Barrett from suspension in Friday evening’s round-opener and rolled over crisis club Melbourne Rebels 54-28 in Palmerston North.

Barrett scored the first of his two tries and winger Salesi Rayasi grabbed a brace as the home side ran up a 33-0 lead in little more than half an hour before the Rebels salved a bit of pride with something of a comeback.

Waikato Chiefs and ACT Brumbies both won to remain in hot pursuit at the top of the standings but the Reds never recovered from a hot start by the home side in Perth in the last match of the round on Saturday night.

The Force, who had two tries from winger Bayley Kuenzle, were 21-0 up just after 31 minutes and managed to hold off a rally from the Reds in the last quarter to grab their first win of the season 40-31.

“It’s been coming,” said Force scrumhalf Nic White. “Few nerves at the end. They are a quality side, they’ve shown that in the first few rounds, and we knew they wouldn’t go away.

“We’re building, we’re starting to believe.”

The Auckland Blues stayed in the leading pack by handing the reigning champion Canterbury Crusaders a fifth straight loss with a 26-6 win at Eden Park on Saturday, leaving the Christchurch club rooted to the bottom of the standings.

The Hurricanes remain on top with 22 points, four ahead of the Chiefs and Brumbies on 18 with the Blues a further point back. The Reds dropped to fifth on 15 points.

The Brumbies followed the Hurricanes’ lead on Friday with a 60-21 humbling of Moana Pasifika in Canberra, fullback Tom Wright starting and finishing the pick of nine tries with the help of in-form winger Corey Toole.

The Chiefs also looked like they were heading for a big win on Saturday when they led the Otago Highlanders 21-0 at halftime in Hamilton with the visitors down to 14 men after centre Tanielu Tele’a was shown a red card.

Scrumhalf Cortez Ratima extended the lead with a five-pointer 14 minutes after the break but the improving Highlanders rallied with three unanswered tries to go down by only seven points, 28-21.

The Fijian Drua moved into the top eight after claiming another victim on home soil, earning a first ever victory over the New South Wales Waratahs 39-36 in golden point overtime on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in Lautoka.

Replacement flyhalf Kemu Valetini slotted a drop goal to take the spoils in a Churchill Park thriller after Tane Edmed had miscued his effort at the other end, the second time this season his kicking has cost the Waratahs a win.

(This story has been corrected to change the location of the match to Palmerston North in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)