Rugby-First blood for New Zealand in trans-Tasman Super Rugby

·2-min read

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Otago Highlanders outmuscled Australian champions the Queensland Reds 40-19 before the Wellington Hurricanes beat the New South Wales Waratahs 64-48 in a Sydney try-fest as New Zealand took first blood in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman on Friday.

Predictions that the six-week contest would be one-sided in favour of the New Zealand sides looked on the money when Highlanders centre Scott Gregory cantered over the line for the first try of the competition after just 35 seconds in Dunedin.

Reds scrumhalf Kalani Thomas made amends for the error that led to the first score by evening up the contest four minutes later but Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon and winger Sio Tomkinson both crossed to give the home side a 21-7 advantage at halftime.

Winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored twice for the Reds in the second half but a second try for Highlanders co-captain Dixon and scores from replacements Liam Coltman and Ngatungane Punivai put the match out of reach.

"I was just really proud to see our boys really up for it," said All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith. "We had two weeks off so we wanted to show that with our energy."

The Australians fared better early in a high-scoring battle between the bottom sides from both of this year's domestic Super Rugby competitions at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Waratahs were holding a 17-12 advantage after 21 minutes but a five-point lead was never going to be enough in a match where both defences looked shaky at best and 17 tries were scored.

The Hurricanes grabbed 10 of them with winger Julian Savea and centre Billy Proctor scoring two each, while prop Harry Johnson-Holmes grabbed a brace for the home side.

The visitors led 33-24 at the break and the Waratahs never got closer than a nine-point deficit despite running in four tries in the second half.

"It was a bit different, didn't expect that score," said Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles.

"Good on attack but looks like the defence needs a bit of work."

The Waratahs remain winless in nine matches this season but captain Jake Gordon was able to take some positives out of the match.

"Our attack's starting to hum," he said. "We wanted to attack the Kiwi sides, we didn't want to sit there and let them roll the punches on us."

The competition continues with three matches on Saturday before four further weeks of round-robin and a final between the top two in the standings on June 19.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Toby Davis)