By Aiden McLaughlin
Round three of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman kicked off in Napier this evening with the Hurricanes and Force doing battle at McLean Park. Although this weekend’s fixtures were originally envisaged as a ‘super round’ to be staged in one city, that was eventually put in the too hard basket allowing Hawke’s Bay to tender for the right to host the match. They were rewarded with a healthy turnout through the turnstiles of 9,296.
With Dane Coles rested, Canterbury captain Reed Prinsep led the Hurricanes out with Ardie Savea starting the night on the bench, having been out for seven weeks after injuring his left knee against the Crusaders.
For the Force, there was a return to New Zealand for former Hurricane Jeremy Thrush, as well as 2011 World Cup winner Richard Kahui. Rob Kearney, with 98 international caps behind him, also lined up at fullback for the men in blue.
After the opening exchanges were dominated by the kicking games of both sides, it was another international, Argentine first five Domingo Miotti, who opened the scoring in the sixth minute for the Force, with a penalty kick from 40 metres. Miotti doubled the lead with a second penalty from slightly closer after ten minutes.
The Hurricanes struck back a few minutes later as Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua picked up a loose ball from a lineout in his own half before running 70 metres to score his third try of the Trans-Tasman competition. A Jordie Barrett conversion and suddenly the Hurricanes were in front 7-6.
With the Hurricanes getting an increasing foothold in the game, winger Salesi Rayasi touched down in the left corner after 17 minutes, only for the TMO Mike Fraser to rule the try out for foul play; Rayasi was guilty of pushing Force second five Kyle Godwin in the back before gaining possession. He wouldn’t be denied for long however, acrobatically avoiding the defender to score his first try of the season. With a second Barrett conversion from wide, the score was 14-6.
With the Force struggling to get out of their own territory approaching halftime, a turnover from tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax saw the ball end up in the hands of openside Du’Plessis Kirifi to see a handy halftime lead of 19-6.
After 47 minutes, the Hurricanes won a lineout through second row Scott Scrafton and after going through the hands of first five Orbyn Leger and Barrett it was right winger Wes Goosen who pinned his ears back to beat opposite winger Jordan Olowofela to score his second try of the competition to extend the lead to 24-6. Ardie Savea joined proceedings after 50 minutes to replace local hero Gareth Evans and was immediately into the action, winning a penalty.
In the 58th minute, the Force were exerting decent pressure in the Hurricanes 22 were but a long pass was wayward and Rayasi was able to get a foot to it, gather the ball and run the length of the field to score his second try of the night, under the posts, meaning an easy conversion for Barrett to make it 31-6.
After 71 minutes the Force thought they had their try through Thrush via a maul, but it was ruled out for obstruction. Typically, the Hurricanes rubbed it in almost immediately; Barrett chipped over the rush defence with Ngani Laumape taking a pass from Savea to have an unchallenged run in to score the sixth try of the night and Barrett made it 38-6 and really cement the bonus point win.
It wasn’t to be the final act however, with Barrett scoring try number seven after looping around Goosen in the Force’s 22 and staying tight to the right hand touchline to dot down and secure a record win by the Hurricanes against the Force, with a final score of 43-6.
Things don’t get any easier for the Force as they travel to Christchurch to play the Crusaders next Friday night. For the Hurricanes, it’s a trip over to Canberra to play the Brumbies next Saturday to try and extend their unbeaten record in this competition.
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