Super Rugby Pacific: Hurricanes overcome plucky Melbourne Rebels to book home semi-final

Tabletopping Hurricanes have safely progressed to the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals with a hardfought 47-20 win over Melbourne Rebels, sending the Aussies into oblivion, as their time in the competition ends.

The home side took most of the first half to gain any kind of superiority over their plucky opponents, who refused to go quietly into the night. Four converted tries either side of halftime propelled the Hurricanes to a 35-6 lead, before a try double to Rebels winger Lachie Anderson restored some scoreline respectability.

The regular season champions suffered a pre-game setback, when fullback Ruben Love was ruled out, replaced by Harry Godfrey at the back.

Pasilio Tosi scores the Hurricanes' opening try.
Pasilio Tosi scores the Hurricanes' opening try. Photo credit: Photosport

First-five Carter Gordon gave the visitors early hope, when he slotted a penalty from 40 metres, after the Hurricanes infringed at a lineout.

Hurricanes counterpart Brett Cameron promptly compounded that error by putting his kickoff out on the full, but despite a powerful scrum, the Rebels attack broke down, when winger Josh Moorby picked off a long pass in midfield for the home side.

Winger Salesi Rayasi took an inside pass and entered the 22, before finding flanker Peter Lakai, as the Hurricanes advanced, but No.8 Braydon Iose was held up over the tryline.

Moments later, hooker Asafo Aumua was also held up, after storming over from a lineout maul.

A 50-22 from Godfrey put his side back on the frontfoot and finally, after several lunges at the line, prop Pasilio Tosi found the grass.

Gordon narrowed the margin with another penalty, but with halftime looming, the Hurricanes crossed again, after second-five Jordie Barrett broke the defence and found Moorby with a long pass.

The winger cut back inside a defender and grounded the ball in a pile of bodies.

Leading 14-6 at the break, the tabletoppers had lost prop Xavier Numia to a reported calf tear, but struck immediately after the restart, when Barrett slipped another tackle inside the 22 and sent Iose galloping between the posts.

Cameron went close, when he chased a long kick from Rayasi, but Gordon just batted the ball dead beyond his reach. From the dropout, Lakai provided an inside pass to Aumua, who was unstoppable from close range.

The Rebels resistance finally melted, as halfback TJ Perenara put flanker Devan Flanders over, with Aumua, Lakai and Rayasi again prominent.

Rebels halfback Ryan Louwrens and Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua exchange opinions.
Rebels halfback Ryan Louwrens and Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua exchange opinions. Photo credit: Photosport

As both benches emptied and the game lost shape, Melbourne finally found the tryline, with a move down the left that saw No.8 Rob Leota put winger Lachie Anderson over in the corner. Moments later, Anderson had his double, when replacement loose forward Vaiolini Ekuasi roared into the 22 and found his winger at pace.

After conceding quick back-to-tries, the Hurricanes needed an answer to restore their dominance and flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi obliged, charging from an attacking lineout, and then popping up again to stretch out and score.

Winger Kini Naholo powered over from a close range ruck for good measure.

"I want to acknowledge the Rebels franchise," reflected Barrett. "They've always been a joy to play against, so we wish the players, coaches and fans all the best in whatever direction they go.

"We got disrupted a bit in that first half, but we were under no illusion that challenge would come from the Rebels this week - an emotional side with a lot to play for. It was pleasing to wrestle back a bit of momentum after halftime and got into the game."

The Hurricanes will now wait to see how the remaining quarter-final match-ups pan out, before learning their semi-final opponents.

Hurricanes 47 (Tosi, Moorby, Iose, Aumua, Flanders, Kirifi, Naholo tries; Cameron 6 conversions) Melbourne Rebels 20 (Anderson 2 tries; Gordon 2 penalties & 2 conversion)