The Hurricanes booked their place in the Super Rugby quarter-finals with a 28-17 win against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The four log points also keeps the Canes' chances of winning the New Zealand conference alive going into the final round of matches. They are two log points behind the Crusaders, who they will meet in Christchurch next weekend, and three behind the Chiefs.
The Waratahs, meanwhile, remain second in the Australian conference, and outside the wildcard-qualifying places, having failed to take advantage of the Brumbies' heavy defeat to the Blues on Friday. This has been a horrible weekend for Australia, with the Reds and Rebels also suffering big losses to Kiwi teams.
The Hurricanes started this match strongly, surging into an 11-0 lead, and while the Waratahs fought back well to hit the front early in the second half, the visitors then stepped up a gear, scoring a try with 14 men against 15 and another with 15 against 14, to secure the win.
Beauden Barrett missed his first penalty attempt at goal but made no mistake with his next two as his side went 6-0 ahead. A couple of promising Canes attacks had ended with knock-ons, but they got it right in the 17th minute after winning a lineout on the Tahs' 10m line and sending the ball wide to Cory Jane. The winger kicked over the head of Israel Folau and the ball sat up perfectly for Barrett, who dived over for the opening try.
The hosts then got themselves back into the game, patiently working their way into the opposition 22. Nick Phipps darted through the smallest of gaps next to the breakdown to take play to within 5m of the tryline, and after a pick-and-go from Tom Robertson, Taqele Naiyaravoro collected the ball from the back of the ruck and crashed over for a converted try.
The Canes thought they had scored their second try late in the half when Jane kicked ahead, and instead of grounding the ball in the Tahs' dead-ball area, Phipps attempted a crazy pop pass to Foley. The flyhalf failed to collect it and TJ Perenara applied pressure to the loose ball. However, the TMO ruled that the Canes scrumhalf had knocked on before Phipps had got involved and the Tahs survived.
The visitors suffered a setback two minutes after the half-time hooter when Willis Halaholo was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Foley, with the flyhalf slotting the resultant penalty to narrow the gap to one.
The Waratahs then took a 17-11 lead early in the second half when Folau received possession 15m out and stepped inside past three defenders to score an excellent try.
But the 14-man Hurricanes responded almost immediately, creating an overlap on the right-hand side from which Jane scored. Barrett's conversion edged his side back in front with Halaholo then returning to the field.
Barrett extended the Canes' lead with his third penalty, before being taken out in the air by Naiyaravoro, who was sent to the bin. Two minutes later, Julian Savea broke away down the left-hand touchline and beat two defenders to score a converted try that gave his side some breathing room.
With eight minutes to go, Naiyaravoro was denied a try in the left-hand corner by a brilliant Barrett tackle, and the Waratahs never came close to scoring again.
Waratahs – Tries: Taqele Naiyaravoro, Israel Folau. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalty: Foley.
Hurricanes – Tries: Beauden Barrett, Cory Jane, Julian Savea. Conversions: Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (3).
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Reece Robinson.
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Chris Eves, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes.
Subs: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images