England target Shields scores as Hurricanes dispatch Sunwolves
Sunwolves remain winless in the 2018 Super Rugby season after Hurricanes recovered from a slow start to register a comprehensive 43-15 victory in Wellington on Friday.
Brad Shields, at the centre of a tug of war between New Zealand Rugby and the Rugby Football Union over Eddie Jones' desire to select the forward in England's tour of South Africa, started and scored a late try for last season's beaten semi-finalists.
After seeking an early release from his contract, the short-term fate of the Wasps-bound 27-year-old remains unresolved, but, despite Hurricanes conceding the first try at Westpac Stadium, there was little doubt about the outcome of the contest.
The victory sends Chris Boyd's side top of both the New Zealand Conference and the overall standings, two points ahead of the Lions, while the struggling Sunwolves remain bottom.
Five points in the bank. pic.twitter.com/fi5fuVwA5t-- Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) April 27, 2018
The away team had started strongly to raise hopes of staging a rare upset, Pieter Labuschagne shrugging off the attentions of Ardie Savea to score the first try of the match in the eighth minute, and Hayden Parker converted to give the Japanese side an early 7-0 lead.
Vince Aso flicked a pass out of his right hand while off balance to set up Julian Savea to hit back for the Hurricanes in the 14th minute, Beauden Barrett adding the extras to level the scores.
A Parker penalty briefly nudged the Sunwolves back in front, but Hurricanes finished the half in dominant fashion to earn a commanding lead at the break.
Finlay Christie crossed in the 27th minute after Barrett received the ball from a scrum inside the opposition's 22-metre line and ran at the defence before offloading.
With two minutes remaining in the half, Reed Prinsep broke from the back of a scrum five metres out and forced his way over, Barrett converting both tries to make it 21-10.
It was the turn of Barrett's brother Jordie to shine early in the second half, the full-back showing guile and strength to break through the Sunwolves' line on halfway and then race clear to score, although his sibling failed to capitalise with the boot.
Kenki Fukuoka got one back with 12 minutes to go, but that served only to provoke another emphatic response, Aso grabbing two late tries either side of Shields' score to blow out the margin of a bonus-point victory.