WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Center Vince Aso scored three tries to lift the Hurricanes to a 61-7 win over the Cheetahs in Super Rugby on Saturday, becoming the leading try scorer of the season by raising his tally in 2017 to a club record of 13.
Aso began the match with 10 tries, one behind his midfield partner Ngani Leaumape who previously led the season's try scoring list with 11. Aso's first try in the 20th minute allowed him to draw level with Leaumape and helped the Hurricanes to a 21-7 lead by halftime.
Inside center Leaumape then created two second tries for Aso, who first matched the season record for the Hurricanes — 12 by former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga — and then claimed that record for himself.
On both occasions Leaumape broke the Cheetahs' defense inside his 22 and linked with Aso who touched down in the 47th and 61st minutes as the Hurricanes ran away with the match with six second-half tries.
In a match of records, All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett — who started the match at fullback for the Hurricanes — kicked five conversions from five attempts to lift his career tally in Super Rugby to 992. In doing so he moved into fourth place on the all-time scorers list ahead of Andrew Mehrtens (990) and behind top-placed Dan Carter (1,708), Morne Steyn (1,431) and Stirling Mortlock (1,036).
The Hurricanes also equaled their club record of 72 tries in a season, matching — with three regular season rounds remaining — their tally for all of last year when they won the Super Rugby title for the first time.
At first the Hurricanes were happy to attack the Cheetahs from rolling mauls, restoring some credibility to their forward pack which was severely mauled in last weekend's 20-12 loss to the Crusaders.
But when the game opened up in the second half they showed the full potency of their backline with a series of length-of-the-field tries, including two to Aso and another to the young winger Ben Lam — his first of the season. Hooker Leni Apisai grabbed another from close range for his first try in the Hurricanes jersey.
"The forwards would have been disappointed with how they performed last weekend but we were disappointed as backs as well," Hurricanes captain T.J. Perenara said. "Our forwards lay a good platform for us and we didn't get over the line last week.
"This week I think we all did a better job in finishing which was beneficial for us tonight.
The Hurricanes took 16 minutes to score their first try, through lock Vaea Fifita and quickly doubled their lead with Aso's first try. Flyhalf Fred Zeilinga hit back with a brilliant individual try for the Cheetahs before Ardie Savea gave the Hurricanes a three tries to one advantage at halftime.
Perenara scored from a strong forward buildup at the start of the second half, then Leaumape sawed through the Cheetahs defense and linked with his fellow center to give Aso a double. After a try to prop Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Leaumape launched another long-range raid which gave Aso his hat trick.