Lam tries set up Hurricanes to sweep aside Lions
Winger Ben Lam scored two early second-half tries to set up the Wellington Hurricanes for a 37-17 Super Rugby victory over the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
His brace came within eight minutes and helped the New Zealanders build a 15-point advantage after they ended the first half level at 10-10 with their South African hosts.
An Aphiwe Dyantyi try narrowed the gap to eight points, but the Hurricanes responded with two tries from hooker Dane Coles after he came off the bench.
The bonus-point win confirmed the Wellington side will finish fourth in the combined standings and enjoy home advantage in the quarter-finals.
But should they make the last four, there is the possibility of a visit to table-toppers and fellow New Zealanders the Canterbury Crusaders in the semi-finals.
Winning at Ellis Park completed a profitable tour for the Hurricanes as they collected nine points from a possible 10 having beaten the Coastal Sharks in Durban last weekend.
The Lions, runners-up in the past three finals, lie sixth with one league round left and may need to beat the Northern Bulls in Pretoria next weekend to reach the knockout phase.
They could be without star loose forward Kwagga Smith for that match as he was helped off the field with a suspected hamstring injury after 25 minutes.
- 'Outstanding replacements' -
SuperSport TV analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett hailed the New Zealanders as a "very good team" after a 12th win in 14 matches against the Lions.
"Their tactical kicking was very effective, constantly pegging the Lions back into their own half.
"I thought Dane Coles and (loose forward) Ardie Savea, who came on as replacements, were outstanding for the Hurricanes."
The visiting side took the lead after seven minutes when centre Nani Laumape broke from midfield to score his 11th try this season.
Lions levelled within three minutes when a defensive mix-up gifted back-in-form Springbok winger Dyantyi a try.
Fly-half Shaun Reynolds and full-back Jordie Barrett, who converted the early tries, slotted penalties and the teams finished the opening half level.
Barrett converted one of the Lam tries and kicked a penalty before Reynolds added the extra points to a second Dyantyi try, leaving the Hurricanes with a 25-17 advantage on the hour.
The visitors finished stronger with Coles bagging a double and Barrett converting the first for an ultimately comfortable victory.
? 2019 AFP