April 18, 2015
The Waratahs became the first team to beat the Hurricanes this season with a 29-24 victory in an eight-try thriller in Wellington on Saturday.
The reigning Super Rugby champions revived their title defence with arguably their best performance of the season as both they and the competition leaders scored four tries in a clash high on quality and excitement.
Two bonus points for the Hurricanes mean they will nevertheless end the weekend at the summit of the overall standings but they will harbour a number of regrets as their high-risk approach resulted in two of the Waratahs' tries.
The scores were locked at 19-all at the end of a high-paced first half that saw both sides score three tries. Both teams were also denied tries by the TMO as the action never stopped flowing.
The Hurricanes would have been frustrated at the interval though having enjoyed the lion's share of territory and possession.
The Waratahs bench had a huge impact in the second half as they took control of the game after the break, upping the intensity and physicality.
After blowing hot and cold this season, the Waratahs' big names stepped up as Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau all put in excellent shifts while Ma'a Nonu and Ardie Savea stood out for the 'Canes.
The Hurricanes should have had the first try early on from a wonderful passage of play but Ardie Savea wasted the chance by fumbling the ball while dotting down under no pressure.
It would be the visitors who opened the scoring with a great try as Peter Betham capped an 11-phases build up with a powerful finish.
The reply from the Hurricanes came soon afterwards as skipper Conrad Smith crossed untouched down the blindside flank after a solid 'Canes scrum before fly-half Beauden Barrett collected Nonu's chip kick to race home from deep inside his own half. Barrett slotted both touchline conversions.
Kurtley Beal was unlucky not to score as he put the ball down over the line but he grounded it on Ardie Savea's boot. But the Waratahs did hit back when monster lock Will Skelton charged over from close range to cut the lead to 14-12.
Hurricanes number eight Brad Shields was the beneficiary of some excellent work from his backs to score in the corner to take the score to 12-19.
But the 'Tahs drew level on the stroke of half time. With the Hurricanes trying to run out of their own half, a well-placed Betham swooped to intercept Barrett and score underneath the posts for his second try.
Tah's skipper Dave Dennis came within inches of scoring after the break, denied by a great tackle from Ardie Savea but the visitors' pressure was rewarded with the all-important fourth try.
A brilliant run from Hooper broke the Hurricanes defensive line allowing the backs to give the ball to Folau, who used his pace to score in the corner. The conversion from Foley gave the 'Tahs a 26-19 lead.
@SuperRugby at its very finest!! Two teams in an all out attacking assault. They should play an extra 40mins just for us spectators— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) April 18, 2015
The Waratahs were enjoying momentum and a Foley penalty for offside opened the gap to ten points on the hour mark.
The Hurricanes set up a grandstand finis through TJ Perenera as the scrum-half dived over from the back of a ruck with less than ten minutes remaining but, crucially, Barrett missed the conversion.
With the clock ticking away, the Hurricanes were unable to maintain composure and slumped to their first defeat of the year.