Hurricanes make 14 changes but still beat Melbourne Rebels 54-28 in Super Rugby

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Hurricanes flaunted their depth in a 54-28 win over the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby Pacific Friday, making 14 changes to their starting 15 without impact on the form that has taken them to the top of the standings.

All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax was the only player to back up from last week’s 14-10 win over the Crusaders. Despite an entirely new backline, a new back three and four changes to the tight five, the Wellington-based Hurricanes overwhelmed the Rebels by running in five tries before halftime and three more in the second half.

The Hurricanes have been strong at set pieces all season and that continued regardless of an almost total overhaul of the forward pack.

The backline also remained dynamic with 80-test All Black T.J. Perenara returning at scrumhalf and combining with flyhalf Aidan Morgan. Jordie Barrett returned from suspension to score two tries and form a new midfield partnership with Ngane Punivai on debut. The pair excelled in defense.

The 21-year-old fullback Harry Godfrey capped a superb game with a try. DuPlessis Kirifi and New Zealand-born former England international Brad Shields also scored tries and were part of an outstanding Hurricanes backrow alongside No. 8 Devon Flanders.

“We’ve got a big standard in the way we want to prepare and execute and perform,” said Shields, who led the Hurricanes in his first match of the season. “No matter how many changes or who goes onto the field and represents the Hurricanes, we all adhere to the best standards possible.”

The Hurricanes scored their five first-half tries in succession between the 13th and 32nd minutes. Winger Salesi Rayasi scored the first, Barrett the second, then Rayasi the third all in the space of seven minutes.

Barrett’s was a neat piece of work from a deliberately over-thrown lineout to Shields, who passed to Perenara with Barrett in support. Rayasi’s second was also clinical, created by Godfrey who won a high ball on his own 22, beat one tackle and sent the winger away.

Shields scored in the 25th minute and Gordon in the 32nd as the Hurricanes reached 33-0 at a point a minute.

The Rebels rallied with tries on either side of halftime to lock Angelo Smith and center Lukas Ripley.

Kirifi scored in the 50th, then Perenara extended the Hurricanes’ lead to 47-14 with his try in the 56th — it was the 59th of his Super Rugby career which places him equal fourth on the all-time list.

Mason Gordon scored a try on debut for the Rebels, converted by his brother and Australian international Carter Gordon.

The Hurricanes responded with Barrett’s second try, begun with superb inter-passing among the tight forwards and finished clinically by the backs. Morgan added his seventh conversion from eight attempts.

The Rebels finished with their fourth try, the 12th of the match, to hooker Jordan Uelese from a lineout drive. Carter Gordon kicked four from four conversions.


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