The Hurricanes secured their seventh successive win of the season when they claimed a 43-15 triumph over the Sunwolves in Wellington on Friday.
The 2016 champions were full value for their win as they outscored the Sunwolves seven tries to one but they were made to work hard and only sealed the result in the game’s latter stages.
The win means the Hurricanes provisionally move top of the New Zealand Conference and the overall standings but that situation could change if the Crusaders and Lions win their respective matches on Saturday.
The Hurricanes made the brighter start and thought they had opened the scoring in the third minute when Vince Aso crossed the whitewash but his effort was disallowed due to a forward pass from Julian Savea in the build-up.
The Sunwolves made full use of that lifeline and were soon camped inside the home side’s half. And they were rewarded in the ninth minute when Lappies Labuschagne stepped out of a tackle from Ardie Savea before scoring the opening try.
Hayden Parker added the extras but despite that early setback, the Hurricanes did not panic and opened their account via a Julian Savea try in the 14th minute. This, after he gathered a pass from Matt Proctor inside the Sunwolves’ 22 and the burly All Blacks wing had an easy run-in over the try-line.
Beauden Barrett succeeded with the conversion attempt which meant the sides were level at 7-7 but the visitors regained the lead shortly afterwards when Parker slotted a penalty after the Hurricanes strayed offside on defence.
The Hurricanes stepped up a couple of gears on attack during the latter stages of the half and were rewarded with two further tries during that period. First, Finlay Christie gathered an inside pass from Beauden Barrett, inside the Hurricanes’ 22, before dotting down.
And on the stroke of half-time, Reed Prinsep made a break off the back of a five-metre scrum before crashing over for a deserved try which meant the Hurricanes led 21-10 at the interval.
The Hurricanes continued to dominate after the restart and two minutes into the second half Jordie Barrett burst through a tackle from William Tupou, close to the halfway mark, before outsprinting the cover defence on his way over the try-line.
The Hurricanes continued to dominate and in the 50th minute Aso dotted down under the posts, after gathering a pass from Julian Savea on the Sunwolves’ 10-metre line but, once again, the inside centre’s try was disallowed after Ardie Savea was penalised for an infringement at a ruck in the build-up.
The next 10 minutes were dominated by the Sunwolves and in the 56th minute they also had a try disallowed when referee Jamie Nutbrown ruled that Hosea Saumaki dotted down just short of the whitewash.
The men from Tokyo eventually reduced the deficit in the 69th minute when Kenki Fukuoka dived on a perfectly weighted box kick from Yutaka Nagare behind the Hurricanes’ try-line.
That made the score 26-15 to the home side, who upped the ante on attack during the last 10 minutes and scored three tries during that period. Aso was eventually rewarded when he dotted down in the 74th minute, after Jackson Garden-Bachop set him up with a superb line break.
Three minutes later, Aso turned provider when he gave a delightful pass out of the back of his hand to Brad Shields, who went over in the left-hand corner and just before full-time Aso scored his second try in that same corner to secure the result for the home side.
Tries: J Savea, Christie, Prinsep, J Barrett, Aso (2), Shields
Cons: B Barrett 3, J Barrett
Tries: Labuschagne, Fukuoka
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder
Sunwolves: 15 William Tupou, 14 Hosea Saumaki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaka Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (c), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 James Moore, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Nikoloz Khataishvili, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Semisi Masirewa
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)