Wellington (AFP) – Try-scoring machine Ben Lam bagged a hat-trick as the Wellington Hurricanes exacted revenge on the Golden Lions on Saturday with a 28-19 victory in their Super Rugby clash.
The victory put the Hurricanes two points behind the Canterbury Crusaders in the New Zealand conference, but with a game in hand, while the Lions suffered their fifth loss but remain top of the South African division.
Lam, the leading try scorer in the competition and seen by many in New Zealand as a contender to join the already crowded All Blacks wing stocks, lifted his total of tries for the year to 12.
With his mix of pace and power, Lam is seen by the Hurricanes as a special weapon.
“He’s on fire. He’s playing really good football,” said captain Brad Shields while coach Chris Boyd believed Lam can only get better.
“He’s starting to realise the potential he’s got. He’s big and fast. He’s doing a good job for us but at the end of a good backline.”
Not even the loss of Jordie Barrett when he rolled an ankle before kick off could upset the ‘Canes who slotted another young All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder in at fullback as the they outscored the Lions four tries to three.
The Wellington club have been smarting since the semi-finals last year when they surrendered a 19-point lead to lose to the Lions 44-29.
This time they again took an early lead but it was one which they would not surrender in a game which never reached great heights, in part because of a strong, swirling wind in the stadium.
Early tries to Lam and Ardie Savea had the Hurricanes ahead 14-7 at half-time with scrum-half Nic Groom scoring for the Lions just before the break.
Savea’s try came from a stolen lineout as the Lions struggled with their throw after influential hooker Malcom Marx limped off the field early with a hamstring strain.
Lam scored twice more in the second half with Beauden Barrett converting all four Hurricanes tries as the forged their way to a 28-7 lead before the Lions staged a late comeback.
But, as with their revival against the Queensland Reds last week, the Lions left their run too late.
Industrious flanker Marnus Schoeman and replacement wing Sylvian Mahuza scored late tries for the Lions before they ran out of time.