Super Rugby Pacific: Hurricanes keep slim home quarter-final hopes alive by thrashing Melbourne Rebels

The Hurricanes continue to pile on the pressure on the Super Rugby Pacific's top four after a commanding 45-22 bonus-point victory over Melbourne Rebels at Wellington's Sky Stadium.

The result sees the Hurricanes leapfrog the Reds into fifth place on the ladder, with 38 points, three shy of the Chiefs on 41.

A bout of illness in the Hurricanes' camp meant late changes to the starting side, as flu saw five players ruled out.

Julain Savea against the Rebels.
Julain Savea against the Rebels. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

The absences left the Hurricanes missing a wealth of experience, after captain Ardie Savea wasn't considered for selection due to personal reasons.

Dane Coles, Salesi Rayasi, Jamie Booth, Asafo Aumua and Wes Goosen were all scratched before a ball was kicked, and brought James O'Reilly, Josh Moorby, Cam Roigard, Siua Maile and Peter Umaga-Jensen into the side in their places.

But if the Hurricanes were disrupted by the news, they didn't show it in the first half.

The home team were fast out of the blocks, scoring three tries in the opening 20 minutes with little resistance from the Rebels.

Julian Savea dotted down in familiar fashion, beating a couple of defenders after some quick play between the backs from an attacking lineout win.

The Rebels opened their account with a penalty in the seventh minute to bring the scores back to 5-3, only for the Hurricanes' attack to explode into life.

Billy Proctor crossed over untouched just minutes later, after a beautiful set-piece move, as captain TJ Perenara found his centre with a well-timed flat pass.

TJ Perenara against the Rebels.
TJ Perenara against the Rebels. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

The visitors were guilty of ill-discipline, and the Hurricanes made them pay. Another lineout win from a penalty sent loose forward Blake Gibson in for a try.

The Rebels did hit back through a player not even originally named in starting XV, outside back Lukas Ripley, after some well-timed dummy runners allowed space for him down the right wing.

But that was as good as it got for them in the first half as Perenara, once again playing first receiver, found Jordie Barrett who linked up with James Blackell to score just minutes before the break.

Ripley had a double at the start of the second half, crossing over to bring the Rebels back into the contest - only for the Hurricanes to hit back.

Maile marked the most of his surprise call-up to the matchday 23 with a try, reaching out to score close to the line, before Barrett crashed over from close range for the Hurricanes' sixth score of the night.

Aidan Morgan put the Hurricanes even further in front, racing away to score after snapping up a loose pass from Rebels replacement Richard Hardwick.

Ripley at the very least ensured he'd leave Wellington with reason to smile, completing his hat-trick courtesy of an outstanding kick through the Hurricanes' line from Matt To'omua, as the final scoring play of the night.

The Hurricanes' hopes of a top four finish and home quarter-final will rest on the results of the final week of the regular season.

The Wellington side travel to Perth to face Western Force next Saturday, but will also hope the Chiefs stumble when they face Fijian Drua in Lautoka earlier that day.

The Hurricanes and Chiefs are almost certain to face each other in the quarter-final as fourth and fifth placed finishers, with the only question being which of the sides will host it.

Hurricanes 45 (Savea, Proctor, Gibson, Blackwell, Maile, Barrett, Morgan tries; Barrett 5 conversions)

Rebels 22 (Ripley 3 tries; To'omua 2 conversions, To'omua penalty)