Super Rugby 2019: Hurricanes hold on to beat the Rebels in Wellington

The Melbourne Rebels' valiant fightback couldn't overcome a nightmare start as they went down 29-19 to the Hurricanes in a peculiar Super Rugby match in Wellington.

Leaking four tries in the opening 21 minutes appeared to end Saturday's match as a contest but the visitors went on to dominate the final three quarters and threatened to snatch an upset win at Westpac Stadium.

Their resilience went unrewarded as the Australian Conference leaders notched a third straight loss and slipped to 5-5 for the season.

They were left to rue a lackadaisical start that left them trailing 26-0.

That was still the score at halftime as the Rebels shored their shambolic defence and gained a foothold before surging with three tries in a purple patch midway through the second half.

Jordie Barrett landed a long-range penalty to push the hosts clear and the result was virtually sealed when Quade Cooper missed a penalty attempt from right in front of the posts that would have kept Melbourne in contention.

It capped a forgettable outing for Cooper, who was eclipsed by All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, particularly in the early exchanges.

Barrett crossed for one try with a sizzling double-around and played a part in others to Ngani Laumape and Wes Goosen.

Flanker Vaea Fifita bagged their fourth as the 20-minute mark ticked over, sparking the prospect of the hosts challenging their 71-6 winning scoreline when the teams last met in Wellington two years ago.

Melbourne's recovery was based around a superior scrum and some hard running around the fringes which created quick ball for Will Genia.

Starved of possession, the Hurricanes became frustrated and were hammered 12-3 in the penalty count.

Referee Nic Berry warned the hosts for repeat offending more than once but didn't brandish a yellow card, to the annoyance of the Rebels.

The visitors were credited with 79 per cent territorial domination in the second spell and it led to tries to Matt Philip, Billy Meakes and Reece Hodge.

The Hurricanes notched a fourth straight win and their eighth of the season to solidify second place overall behind the Crusaders.

It was also their 20th straight home win over teams from outside New Zealand.