Hurricanes halt Highlanders as Chiefs rout Sunwolves


Wellington (AFP)

Wellington Hurricanes ended Otago Highlanders' perfect start to the Super Rugby season with a 29-12 victory Saturday, as Waikato Chiefs kept the Sunwolves winless in a 61-10 rout in Tokyo.

The Hurricanes scored four tries to two, extending an impressive home record which includes wins over defending champions Canterbury Crusaders and the Auckland Blues.

The result will be a jolt for the Highlanders, who went into the match with three wins from three but had not played away from their Dunedin home this season.

Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said the 2016 champions were determined to defend their home turf against a side that beat them in the 2015 final.

"At times we really had to grind it out," Shields said.

"Sometimes that's the way you've got to play to win these derby matches. I'm proud of our effort, but we're still not where we want to be."

Waisake Naholo was the standout performer for the Highlanders, scoring their two tries.

But Lam's brace, combined with Beauden Barrett's opener and a spectacular mid-aid touchdown effort from Vince Aso, sealed the win.

Earlier, Damian McKenzie lit the spark as the Waikato Chiefs inflicted more misery on the struggling Sunwolves on Saturday by bulldozing to a crushing 61-10 Super Rugby win in Tokyo.

McKenzie and Solomona Alaimalo grabbed two tries each in a dominant performance by the New Zealanders, who posted their biggest ever margin of victory as they condemned the winless Sunwolves to a fifth successive defeat of the season.

The visitors ran in nine tries overall, several of them orchestrated by McKenzie, showing what he can do in a play-making role after proving his class at full-back in recent seasons.

The 22-year-old also kicked eight of nine conversion attempts as the Chiefs -- Super Rugby champions in 2012 and 2013 -- improved to three wins against one loss.

"We managed to come out and put points on them early and the way we kept the scoreboard ticking over was something I'm really happy about," said Chiefs captain Sam Cane.

"We put them under pressure at set pieces and it was a good team effort. Definitely some components of our defence were pretty good -- there were some big collisions today. We'll keep working on that because we play the Highlanders on Friday."

- Struggling Sunwolves -

Canada international Tyler Ardron began the rout in the fifth minute, muscling over after Yu Tamura's booted clearance had smashed scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka in the head.

That mishap set the tone for the Sunwolves, who gave up three more tries to Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris and Alaimalo before pulling one back through Semisi Masirewa before halftime.

Hosea Saumaki briefly raised hopes for the Sunwolves when he burst clear to score moments after the restart.

But normal service was resumed when McKenzie exchanged passes with Toni Pulu to score and Alaimalo raced away for his second try after good work from Ardron.

McKenzie then chased down a Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi kick try for his second before setting up Liam Polwart to bring up the half century.

The Sunwolves, who gave up another try to Sean Wainui three minutes before the buzzer, have now lost 31 of 35 games since joining Super Rugby in 2016.

"The Chiefs came on really hard and put a lot of pressure on us," admitted Sunwolves captain Willie Britz.

"We let in a few soft tries and missed a few tackles that put us under pressure in the first few minutes. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves."