A Salesi Rayasi double and a muscular return from captain Ardie Savea spurred the Hurricanes to a third straight maximum point victory on Friday, as they remained on track for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.
In their first match in Napier since February last year, the Hurricanes entertained the McLean Park crowd of 9226 in a 43-6 win over the Western Force who barely fired a shot after pushing the Chiefs and Highlanders close in Perth.
Seven tries to none – some of them super efforts – was easily enough to secure a bonus point for the ladder leaders who face a sterner test next Saturday against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Hurricanes hooker sprints 60m to score
The biggest roar went up when Ngani Laumape slid over to score with seven minutes left, after Jordie Barrett’s chip found a rampaging Savea who delivered the final pass. Then Barrett dived over in the corner to cap a strong night for him, scoring the Hurricanes’ 22nd try over the first three rounds.
It was the Hurricanes’ 10th straight win over the Force, a record streak against any opponent, and a record margin against them.
After seven weeks out with a knee injury, Savea was on in the 51st minute for Gareth Evans the Hawke’s Bay product who was one of the Canes’ standouts.
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Rayasi’s spectacular finish
Savea immediately forced a breakdown penalty with his first act and was heavily involved, in scenes to please both Hurricanes coach Jason Holland and All Blacks boss Ian Foster.
The gifted attacker Rayasi was everywhere and showed his class while Evans, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax and Peter Umaga-Jensen were prominent. Force lock Jeremy Thrush, a former Hurricane, toiled hard to lift the visitors and had a late try denied.
The Hurricanes had control at 19-6 up at halftime, eventually easing into their work after a poor start on a dewy McLean Park surface that tested both sides’ handling.
The bulky frame of Asafo Aumua sparked them to life as he pounced on a poor Force lineout, shrugging off three attempted tacklers and galloping 65m to score a wonderful solo try in the 14th minute.
With Dane Coles resting, Aumua got a welcome start and was a wrecking ball on defence, too, but departed before halftime after failing a head injury assessment. He was felled by a Force high tackle near the line that was penalised, but oddly not explored further for a potential card.
The Hurricanes were powerful up front, had all the ball and got some momentum, shifting it wider then hammering away in midfield with Rayasi and Umaga-Jensen prominent figures on attack.
Rayasi was denied one try after he shoved Force halfback Tomas Cubelli, but made amends with a ripper three minutes later. Umaga-Jensen floated a gem of a wide pass and Rayasi finished with a spectacular dive in the left corner.
Then, just before the break, prop Lomax produced a one on one strip from the rugby league playbook, pinching the ball off Force No 8 Tim Anstee. Flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi grabbed it and hared 40m to score.
The Canes had leaked nine tries against the Waratahs and Rebels despite piling on plenty of their own, but their defence held firm.
Force wings Toni Pulu and Jordan Olowofela posed threats out wide but were contained as the hosts went bonus point hunting.
They went wide again and the speedy right wing Wes Goosen, after playing a blinder the previous week, scorched the wet turf to score.
Then after Savea returned and made an immediate impact, it was game over. A promising Force attack broke down, Rayasi cleverly trapped the ball with his boot and sprinted 90m to score his second, leaving the final quarter for the Hurricanes to boost their points differential which will be crucial in final permutations.
AT A GLANCE
Hurricanes 43 (Salesi Rayasi 2, Asafo Aumua, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Jordie Barrett tries; Barrett 4 con) Force 6 (Domingo Miotti 2 pen). HT: 19-6