WELLINGTON – Wellington Hurricanes inside center Vince Aso crossed for four tries but only had two count as they beat the Sunwolves 43-15 on Friday to move to the top of the Super Rugby standings.
Aso, who crossed in the 74th and 79th minutes, had two earlier tries ruled out by the television match official Ben Skeen.
The first was chalked off for a marginal forward pass from Julian Savea and the second for a dangerous clear out by Ardie Savea some 70 meters downfield.
Julian Savea, Finlay Christie, Reed Prinsep, Jordie Barrett and Brad Shields also scored for the home side, which moved to 32 points in the standings, two ahead of the Lions and three in front of the defending champion Canterbury Crusaders.
The Hurricanes, who had won their previous six games, only put the result beyond doubt in the final six minutes with three tries — two of which were scored by Aso.
The Sunwolves (0-9), who upset the Hurricanes’ flow, also dominated possession and territory but were unable to capitalize on their numerous opportunities.
They also caused havoc with the Hurricanes’ lineout but were constantly destroyed in the scrum, which accounted for two of the home side’s tries.
After Aso’s first try was overturned in the third minute, Sunwolves captain Pieter Labuschagne finished off a series of pick and goes by his fellow forwards to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The Hurricanes’ scrum dominance, however, started to take its toll and Christie and Prinsep both crossed courtesy of their stable attacking platform to give the hosts a 21-10 lead at the break.
Jordie Barrett scored an early second-half try to extend the advantage to 26-10, before Aso’s second disallowed try, which stemmed from a sweeping attacking move sparked by a Julian Savea burst. It was overturned for supposed foul play by Savea’s brother Ardie.
The Sunwolves then virtually camped in the Hurricanes’ half but were unable to capitalize in the face of some superb defense from the home side.
Winger Kenki Fukuoka scored his side’s second try when he was the first to a speculative kick by Yutaka Nagare to reduce the deficit to 26-15 before Aso and Shields scored in the final six minutes to blow the score out.
The Sunwolves lost yet another player to concussion with lock James Moore forced to leave the field early in the first half. They had 61 percent of possession and 63 percent of territory, forcing their opponents to make 137 tackles to the Sunwolves’ 81.
But while the Sunwolves’ defense leaked at crucial times — they missed 22 tackles to the Hurricanes’ 21 — the hosts’ line generally held firm, particularly when forced to dig in close to their try line.
“It was a tough battle,” Labuschagne said. “We started pretty well and in the second half suffocated them of possession but we just couldn’t get it over the line.”