WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Hurricanes provided further evidence that their defense of the Super Rugby title will be a stern one when they crushed the Melbourne Rebels 71-6 in their second match of the season on Saturday.
The Wellington-based side opened its title defense with an 83-17 win over the Japan-based Sunwolves and followed that 13-try performance with an 11-tries to nil victory on Saturday.
Later the Crusaders scored four second-half tries, including two in the last five minutes to rally from 27-6 down and beat the Highlanders 30-27 at Dunedin.
Winger Seta Tamanivalu scored the winning try with just over a minute on the clock as the Crusaders exploited a one-man advantage after Highlanders center Malakai Fekitoa was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
All Blacks winger Nehi Milner-Skudder scored three tries in his return to Super Rugby after an almost 18-month absence through injury, while winger Vince Aso and center Ngani Laumape had two tries each.
Matt Procter, Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett, Reed Princep and Julian Savea also scored tries as the Hurricanes overwhelmed the Rebels, who showed no improvement from their 56-18 loss to the Auckland-based Blues in the first round.
While the Hurricanes have achieved victories over two of the weakest teams in their tournament, away first-up and at home on Saturday, it was the manner rather than the margin of their win which was impressive.
After conceding two early penalties to trail 6-0, the Hurricanes dominated every aspect of the match and launched try-scoring movements from any part of the field.
They based that on their domination of set pieces, they were far too strong for the Rebels at breakdown and they were able to create turnovers at will.
"It's obviously been a pretty good start," Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. "It's good the way we carried on that attack from last week."
After two penalties to Reece Hodge for the Rebels, Milner-Skudder set the Hurricanes on course to victory with his first try in the 16th minute. The Rebels made the mistake of giving All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett space in attack and he worked a scissors with Milner-Skudder which sent the fullback over close to the posts.
Aso scored twice before halftime and his second try in the 31st minute was one of the Hurricanes' best, involving an almost length-of-the-field breakout and interchange of passes with scrumhalf T.J. Perenara.
Laumape and Procter also scored to give the Hurricanes a 31-6 lead by halftime.
In Dunedin, winger Waisake Naholo scored two tries and had a hand in a third as the Highlanders, bidding for their third straight win over the Crusaders, opened a 21-point lead over the Crusaders just after halftime. The win left the Crusaders 2-0 after two rounds and the Highlanders 0-2 after last week's home loss to the Chiefs.
In the third match of a seven-match Saturday in the tournament, South Africa's Durban-based Sharks handed ACT its second loss in a row, beating the Brumbies 27-22 on a late try.
At Canberra, Australia, the Sharks scored the match-winning try 60 seconds after the final siren when replacement Curwin Bosch put through a kick that surprised the Brumbies defenders. Lukhanyo Am dived on the loose ball for the winning try.
"I feel for the Brumbies, I think it was a great game of rugby, but we're over the moon to get the win," said Sharks captain Patrick Lambie. "We couldn't quite put the Brumbies away and thankfully we were the ones who scored last."