This season saw numerous returns of old stars to their former clubs, but none of these returning greats were more prominent than Aaron Cruden.
The Hurricanes have put seven tries past the Chiefs in a resounding 47-19 win in Wellington.
After last week’s loss to the Lions, the Chiefs made several changes to the run-on side. Nepo Laulala, Taleni Seu, Alex Nankivell, Sean Wainui and Jack Debreczeni were replaced by Atu Moli, Tyler Ardron, Tumua Manu, Etene Nanai-Seturo and Solomon Alaimalo.
The Hurricanes also made five changes to their starting line-up.
The home side were the first on the board when a brilliant set play came off.
Placed in centre field roughly 30 metres out, TJ Perenara passed to Asafo Aumua, who turned the ball inside where Jordie Barrett was steaming through. No-one was in front of him as he sprinted through for the first five-pointer of the evening.
Jordie Barrett then struck just two minutes later when he caught a clearance kick on the halfway line. He proceeded to head down the left wing and his pace left defenders in his wake.
He dummied before cantering in give the Hurricanes a 14-point lead thanks also to his brother Beauden’s conversions.
Kane Leaupepe then got in on the act when he fell over the chalk from close range. Another Beauden Barrett conversion extended the Hurricanes’ lead to three converted tries and the Chiefs were in danger of being torn apart.
The Hamilton outfit got themselves back into the match though when some sustained pressure and phase-play deep in the Hurricanes’ 22 gave them their first opportunity to score.
They had to make the most of the field territory and built-up pressure, and they did when lock Luke Jacobson crashed over for the first try for the men in black.
They struck again four minutes later when Japanese under-20s representative Ataata Moeakiola barged over from the back of a ruck.
The Chiefs attempted the line-out drive but when it collapsed, Moeakiola pounced to close the deficit to nine points after Marty McKenzie’s first conversion of the evening.
But the home side struck seven minutes before halftime when a Vaea Fifita offload set away the Hurricanes.
Fifita offloaded to Matt Proctor on the left wing, who broke through the line. Proctor then handed it off to Chase Tiatia who found skipper TJ Perenara on the inside.
He twisted and turned as he tried to ground the ball and when referee Rasta Rasivhenge sought clarification from his assistant referee, the try was awarded. The Beauden Barrett conversion meant the Hurricanes led 28-12 at the interval.
In trying to run down the Hurricanes’ lead, the Chiefs came flying out of the blocks in the second half.
Off the back of a dominant scrum, the visitors spread the ball through the hands before reaching a two-on-one mismatch on the left wing. Lachlan Boshier then dummied and scooted through to get the Chiefs off to the perfect start.
The Hurricanes then looked to haul back the ascendancy and they did so in the 51st minute.
As the rain started to fall in Wellington, the home team had a scrum on the left-hand side of the field. They looked to beat the Chiefs on the outside when the backs released the ball through the hands and right winger Wes Goosen got the pill in his hands.
He gassed his opponent on the outside and slid through on the right-hand touchline for his first of the evening.
The Canes then put the match to bed when an incredible counter-attack from their own half extended the lead to 21 points.
Ardie Savea turned the ball over deep in his own half and gave it to inspirational captain Perenara.
Perenara broke the line down the blind side with a left-foot step before handing it off to Jordie Barrett.
Barrett skipped down the touchline before he found the hard-working Savea back on the inside, who showed serious strength to pump through the tackle and dive over for an excellent try.
With the score at 40-19, the Hurricanes had well and truly wrapped up the game. But they had one more left in them.
Camped metres out from the Chiefs line, replacement scrumhalf Richard Judd passed to his left and found debutant Salesi Rayasi.
Rayasi got on the outside shoulder of his defender and slammed it down to secure a dream debut try for the 22-year-old.
The Hurricanes had completed a comfortable 47-19 victory over the Chiefs.
Beauden Barrett’s kicking was exceptional in tough, windy conditions. He missed just one of his seven attempts to end up with 12 points for the match.
The Wellington side host the Melbourne Rebels next week at Westpac Stadium in a Round 12 clash.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Chiefs, who now take on the high-flying Highlanders in Dunedin.