The Wellington Hurricanes swamped Japan’s hapless Sunwolves to launch the defence of their Super Rugby title in spectacular fashion as New Zealand teams again dominated in the opening round of the new season.
The Hurricanes demolished the second-season Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo in an embarrassingly lopsided game, while fellow Kiwi teams, Canterbury Crusaders, Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs all won.
The seven-time winning Crusaders struggled to put away Australia’s ACT Brumbies 17-13 in Christchurch, while the Blues trumped another Australian side the Rebels 56-18 in Melbourne and the Chiefs downed the Otago Highlanders 24-15.
Last season’s beaten finalists, the Golden Lions, won 28-25 through a late try over fellow South Africans Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Argentina’s Jaguares won in South Africa 39-26 over the endangered Southern Kings, while the NSW Waratahs slugged out a dour 19-13 win over fellow Australian side Western Force in Sydney.
In the weekend’s remaining game, the Western Stormers put paid to the Northern Bulls 37-24 in the all-South African derby in Cape Town.
The Hurricanes were awesome in Tokyo with Ardie Savea, Vince Aso and Michael Fatialofa all scoring twice as the Sunwolves looked to rebound from last year’s baptism of fire where they won just one of 15 games in their inaugural season.
“It was a tough old day at the office,” Sunwolves head coach Filo Tiatia said.
New Zealand teams, who dominated last season with four spots in the top-eight finals, picked up where they left off.
The Crusaders dominated for most of the game, but the points did not come and they ended up struggling to hold out a late surge by the Brumbies.
Rising star Rieko Ioane scored a hat-trick of tries as the Auckland Blues crushed the Rebels.
The game marked the Blues’ first victory in three trips to Melbourne and it was their biggest winning score in Australia.
Last season’s semi-finalists, the Chiefs ended a six-game losing streak against the Highlanders in their three tries to nil opening win in Dunedin.
A late Rohan Janse van Rensburg try gave 2016 runners-up the Lions victory over the Cheetahs after they trailed by 10 points at one stage.
Half the Jaguares team handled the ball in a dazzling move originating from inside their 22-metre line before scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou crossed in the Argentines’ win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The revitalised Queensland Reds scored two late tries to grab a fighting win over the Sharks after trailing 26-18 with 17 minutes left.
Springbok Patrick Lambie, who had not missed a kick in six goal attempts, had the chance to boot the Sharks to victory but missed with a long-range effort four minutes from full-time.
It was a big tonic for the Reds, who won just three games last season but have significantly bolstered their squad with the signings of Wallabies Quade Cooper, Stephen Moore, George Smith and Scott Higginbotham.
Siya Kolisi celebrated his first game as the Stormers skipper by scoring a try in the victory over the Bulls.
It was the sixth consecutive home win by the Stormers over the Pretoria outfit in the competition.
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