HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Wellington-based Hurricanes failed in their first serious test of their Super Rugby title defense Friday, beaten 26-18 by the Hamilton-based Chiefs in a rain-drenched match.
After beating the Sunwolves 83-17 and the Melbourne Rebels 71-6 in their first two matches, the Hurricanes were substantially outplayed by the Chiefs, who adapted better to conditions made marginal by a rainstorm which brought flooding to New Zealand's upper North Island.
In the only other match Friday, the ACT Brumbies scored two late tries to beat the Western Force 25-17 in Canberra, Australia.
The Hamilton match was decided in the first half when the Hurricanes were reduced to 13 men by yellow cards which allowed the Chiefs to score two tries and lead 17-6 at halftime. The Hurricanes mounted a brief rally, scoring a try which cut the lead to 23-18 after 78 minutes, but the Chiefs were able to ease away to a more comfortable victory with a late penalty.
The Chiefs have won their first three matches of the season against New Zealand opponents, beating the Dunedin-based Highlanders, Auckland-based Blues and the Hurricanes ahead of next weekend's match against the Rebels.
The Chiefs' ability to maintain discipline and control in difficult conditions decided the match.
"Sometimes you get those conditions and it definitely changes the way you play footy," Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. "You've got to tactically be pretty smart and your defense has got to be strong. I thought although with ball in hand we weren't as clinical as we could be, in pretty trying conditions we were good enough to get it done."
The Hurricanes played most of the first half under extreme pressure when they lost flanker Ardie Savea to a yellow card for collapsing a maul and lock Michael Fatialofa for a no-arms tackle.
"I think the Chiefs showed us, especially in the first half, the discipline side of things," Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. "I think they kicked into space well which put us on the back foot and our set piece didn't go too well in the first half which got them in the game."
In Canberra, the Brumbies scored two tries in the last seven minutes. Kyle Godwin scored his first try for the Brumbies against his former club to give the home side a 20-17 lead, and a rolling maul allowed Robbie Abel to score a try in the final minutes to clinch the match for ACT.
The win moved the Brumbies into first place with six points from two matches, one ahead of Queensland and the Force in the Australian conference.
"We've got a young squad at the moment and we're learning how to win," Brumbies captain Sam Carter said. "We managed to grind it out."