Jordie Barrett highlighted a fine performance on his return from injury with a booming 60m penalty as he led the Wellington Hurricanes to a first win in Super Rugby Aotearoa, 25-18 over the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Sunday.
It was a morale-boosting victory for the ‘Canes in New Zealand’s revived Super Rugby competition even though they finished with only 14 players after Scott Scrafton was shown a red card after receiving two yellows.
But it added to a disappointing return to New Zealand for the Waikato-born and former Wales coach Warren Gatland as his side slumped to a fourth loss.
In a much-improved second half for the Chiefs they improved from a 20-3 deficit at the turn to be one converted try from drawing level, and Hurricanes skipper TJ Perenara was relieved to hear the final whistle.
He said: “It was awesome for us to get that win. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us.
“For us to be able to close that one out, even though the Chiefs put us under a lot of pressure at the end, was good for the boys.”
A dejected Chiefs captain Sam Cane said it was “hugely disappointing” to have lost four from four.
“It’s not like we’re not giving ourselves chances to win the game, we’re just not quite clinical enough to take them.”
Barrett, who had been sidelined by a shoulder injury through the early rounds of the competition, made his presence felt from the start with a long cut-out pass that allowed Kobus Van Wyk to stroll over unmarked for the opening try in the fourth minute.
The Chiefs stayed in the hunt for most of the first half, and trailed 7-3 five minutes before half-time when Barrett led a 13-point burst to give the Hurricanes a 20-3 lead at the break.
The 22-year-old All Blacks utility punished the Chiefs with two penalties, including the monster from 10m inside his own half, and also converted a try by Du Plessis Kirifi.
Barrett, who brought a calming influence to the Hurricanes backline, was also instrumental after the break with a deft flick pass to put Van Wyk into space for his second try.
The Chiefs dominated possession but for much of the game they struggled to make headway against a staunch Hurricanes defence.
Their points came from two Damian McKenzie penalties, a penalty try and a try to Lachlan Boshier.