Super Rugby Pacific: Hurricanes maintain unbeaten run, as TJ Perenara equals tryscoring record against Chiefs

Veteran halfback TJ Perenara has showed his willingness and ability to step back into a starring role for the Hurricanes, as he powered them to a 36-23 Super Rugby Pacific win over archrivals Chiefs at Wellington.

Promoted into the No.9 jersey by a season-ending injury to All Blacks incumbent Cam Roigard, Perenara grabbed a try double to equal the competition tryscoring record of 62, already held by former teammate Julian Savea.

Last month, the Hurricanes legend surpassed his old buddy as the franchise's most-capped performer, but with Savea still active with Moana Pasifika, the try contest is likely not over yet.

TJ Perenara scores a try against the Chiefs.
TJ Perenara scores a try against the Chiefs. Photo credit: Photosport

Perenara's second try came at a time when his team had surrendered their halftime lead and seemed vulnerable to their first defeat of the campaign. After he had restored their advantage, the home side managed two more tries to winger Kini Naholo and hooker Safo Aumua to put the icing on the cake.

The Hurricanes are still unbeaten seven games into their season - the only unbeaten side remaining and five point clear of their nearest rivals, the Blues and ACT Brumbies.

After first-five Brett Cameron opened the scoring with a penalty, Perenara had the first try, capitalising on a period of scrum dominance that saw No.8 Brayden Iose go close, before his halfback scooped up the ball and forced on the chalk.

Chiefs halfback Cortez Ratima quickly countered, when he dashed into the 22, regathered his deflected pass and sprinted to the posts.  

When Hurricanes flanker Peter Lakai broke the Chiefs defence, quick hands put Aumua in at the corner. The try was ruled out for a knockon, but the Chiefs lost winger Emoni Narawa to a yellow card for offside and paid an immediate toll.

From the ensuing scrum, Iose grabbed his team's second try.

Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie kept the visitors close with a couple of penalties and they were probably fortunate to trail only 17-13 at the break, although they had lost key strike weapon Shaun Stevenson to injury.

They went onto attack from the second-half restart and McKenzie brought them within a point with another penalty in front of the posts.

The Chiefs took the lead, when Hurricanes second-five Jordie Barrett threw a loose pass, which was hacked ahead by lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi. While winger Josh Moorby seemed to have snuffed out the threat, the Chiefs forwards stole the ball on the tryline, and McKenzie and Josh Ioane combined to put Narawa across.  

Their advantage was shortlived though, as centre Billy Proctor and Naholo took the ball into the Chiefs 22, and Perenara juggled an offload for his second try.  

The Hurricanes stretched their advantage, when Moorby surged ahead and they put together 15 phases of possession, which ended with Naholo enjoying the spoils at the end. The try was reviewed for a questionable cleanout, but eventually confirmed.

Aumua had proved a handful for the defence all night and finally got his just reward, when he powered over in the right corner.

The Chiefs' third loss of the season may see them slip down the table this weekend, with Melbourne Rebels poised to leapfrog them with victory over the Highlanders later Saturday.

Hurricanes 36 (Perenara 2, Iose, Naholo, Aumua tries; Cameron penalty & 4 conversions) Chiefs 23 (Ratima, Narawa tries; McKenzie 2 conversions & 3 penalties)

More to come