It was a scintillating seven-try match but the HSBC Waratahs will leave Wellington disappointed tonight, after a sensational second-half home side performance, led by Hurricanes wing Julian Savea, put the game out of reach and prevented NSW from picking up two well-deserved bonus points.
In their best performance of the season so far, the Waratahs proved themselves equal to their opponents in the first period before conceding a costly 19 points in just 15 minutes in another second half lapse.
Although Dave Dennis’s men fought back strongly, crossing twice through Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau, in the end they had left themselves just too much to do against a dangerous New Zealand outfit.
Said Dennis after the match, “Any team in this competition, if you give them that much ball from turnovers is going to hurt you. It’s something we’ve got to keep working on because it’s creeping up each game and it’s hurting us. We’ll need to fix that in two weeks time.”
Had the tryline come just a split second earlier, Michael Hooper’s desperate drive for the vital fourth try right on the siren would have earned his side a well-deserved two bonus points. Instead, Dennis’s men were left to rue a lack of accuracy at the breakdown that saw them concede a number of costly turnovers.
The signs were good in the first half, with only three points separating the sides at the break. McKibbin opening the scoring with a fourth minute penalty but an effort from Canes flyhalf Beauden Barrett levelled the scores on 10 minutes. Just three minutes later the home side took the lead after wing Savea found space down his flank and dived over in the corner. Barrett’s conversion extended the Canes’ lead to 10-3 after 14 minutes but again the visitors hit back through their scrumhalf McKibbin, clawing the difference back to four points with a second penalty on 16 minutes, only to concede three points three minutes later.
Despite only 40 per cent of the first quarter possession, an inspirational solo try from flyhalf Bernard Foley that saw him step several defenders and sell a dummy pass to cross untouched under the posts, levelled the scores again in the 22nd minute. A further penalty apiece took the score to 16-all going into the final minutes of the first period, before another three-pointer on the siren sent the home side into the sheds with a narrow three point lead.
An impressive Canes try, set up by quick hands from their captain Conrad Smith and scored by prop Reggie Goodes three minutes into the second period proved to be the start of a Canes onslaught, as the home side added a seven-pointer just nine minutes later when hooker Motu Matu’u crossed and Barrett converted. And there was worse to come as the unstoppable Savea added a second of his own just three minutes later.
Having conceded 19 points in 15 minutes, the HSBC Waratahs hit back. Lifted by the arrival of four impactful substitutions, including Wycliff Palu, Paddy Ryan and Matt Lucas, they crossed twice themselves, firstly through outside centre Ashley-Cooper, whose dummy pass allowed him to side through the defence with a trademark outside break and fend and 10 minutes later through Folau, whose right foot step created enough space for him to power over for his team’s third try.
Although they created plenty of chances, Michael Hooper’s final effort was indicative of their night. A fourth try would have earned them two bonus points, narrowing the difference to just five points. But instead the tireless flanker’s charge for the line fell just inches short.
With a round 9 bye next week, NSW’s next match comes in two weeks when they host last year’s Super Rugby champions the Chiefs at Allianz Stadium on Friday, April 19 (kick off 7.40pm). All those attending this match are encouraged to use public transport, with heavy congestion forecast due to the Sydney Swans v Geelong Cats match taking place at the SCG (7.50pm) and the Guy Sebastian concert at the Hordern Pavilion (from 7pm). Full information on public transport will be available from the matchday section on www.waratahs.com.au.
Hurricanes (tries: J Savea 2, Goodes, Matu’u; pens: Barrett 5; cons: Barrett 3) defeated HSBC Waratahs (tries: Foley, Ashley-Cooper, Folau; pens: McKibbin 4; cons: McKibbin)
Half-time: Hurricanes 19 – 16 HSBC Waratahs
HSBC Waratahs: 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood) 2. John Ulugia (Eastern Suburbs) 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick 4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts) 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts) 6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain) 7. Michael Hooper (Manly) 8. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University) 9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs) 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University) 11. Drew Mitchell (Balmain) 12. Rob Horne (Southern Districts) 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs) 14. Peter Betham (Sydney University) 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University)
Replacements: 16. Luke Holmes (Warringah) 17. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University) 18. Mitchell Chapman (Eastern Suburbs) 19. Wycliff Palu (Manly) 20. Matt Lucas (Manly) 21. Ben Volavola (Southern Districts) 22. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
Hurricanes:1. Reggie Goodes, 2. Motu Matu’u, 3. Ben May, 4. Mark Reddish, 5. Jason Eaton, 6. Brad Shields, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Faifili Levave, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Tim Bateman, 13. Conrad Smith (captain), 14. Alapati Leiua, 15. Andre Taylor
Replacements:16.Ash Dixon, 17.Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18.James Broadhurst, 19. Jack Lam, 20.Chris Smylie, 21.Tusi Pisi, 22.Reynold Lee-Lo
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan