Waratahs knock out 'Canes
Sydney - The Waratahs booked a prized berth in the Super 14 semi-finals with an easy 32-16 win over the Hurricanes on Friday in Sydney.
In front of a crowd of 31 000, the Waratahs climbed to second on the ladder with the bonus point win and could earn a vital home semi-final if the Stormers lose to the Bulls on Sunday.
The hosts set up the win with two brilliant first-half penalties, both following bold chip and chases, a tactic they repeated with further success in the second half.
While the Tahs' ninth win of the season means they can look forward to the playoffs, the result ended the Hurricanes' hopes of another semi-finals appearance.
Berrick Barnes said the Waratahs would eagerly watch the Cape Town clash between the Stormers and Bulls.
"We'll get together tomorrow night and watch the game," Barnes said.
"It is just exciting to know we will be in action next week."
The Hurricanes' Rodney So'oialo said it was disappointing to fall at the final hurdle having kept their finals hopes alive for so long.
"We've been on a knife edge and tonight the Waratahs really took it to us," he said.
"We absorbed a lot of pressure, but they played too well tonight."
The Waratahs scored the first four tries of the game, all after deft chip kicks, and had the game in their pocket when Kurtley Beale scored his second try in the 51st minute and Barnes's conversion made it 32-9.
The Hurricanes had made a solid start, with a Piri Weepu penalty conversion giving them the first score of the game and when he slotted his second in the 14th minute they led 6-3.
However, the tide turned when Beale collected his own chip kick to score under the posts in the 15th minute, setting up a 10-6 lead for the Waratahs.
A brilliant piece of solo play by Lachie Turner set up a Drew Mitchell try in the 32nd minute.
Turner gained possession at the defensive end of the field for the Waratahs, then gathered his own chip kick and made a probing run downfield, before offloading with a long pass to an unmarked Mitchell out wide for an easy try.
Another Weepu penalty after the half-time siren gave the Hurricanes some hope despite trailing 18-9 at the break.
But the Waratahs broke the game open after the resumption, with Mitchell gathering his own chip to score his second try of the match, and ninth of the season, in the 45th minute.
Beale then used the same tactic and capitalised on a lucky bounce to sink the Hurricanes, who scored a late consolation try through David Smith.
Realistically the only remaining match that can affect the playoff picture is the Stormers v Bulls match at Newlands on Saturday.
The three possible scenarios for the Newlands match are as follows:
1) Should the Stormers win with a bonus point or not, they will move into second spot and play the Waratahs in the semi-finals while the Bulls would host the Crusaders.
2) Should the Stormers draw, they will finish in third position and will have to travel to Sydney to face the Waratahs while the Bulls would host the Crusaders.
3) Should the Stormers lose, they will finish in fourth position and will play the Bulls in Orlando, while the Waratahs would host the Crusaders in Sydney. However, should the Stormers pick up two points in defeat (by finishing within seven points of the Bulls' score and by scoring four tries), they will finished third and travel to Sydney to face the Waratahs, while the Bulls would host the Crusaders).
15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Lachie Turner, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Tom Carter, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Luke Burgess, 8. Ben Mowen, 7. Phil Waugh (captain), 6. Pat McCutcheon, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Dean Mumm, 3. Al Baxter, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Dan Palmer
Substitutes: 16. Damien Fitzpatrick, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Chris Thomson, 19. Dave Dennis, 20. Josh Holmes, 21. Daniel Halangahu, 22. Rory Sidey
15. Cory Jane, 14. Tamati Ellison, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Piri Weepu, 8. Rodney So’oialo, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Michael Paterson, 5. Jeremy Thrush, 4. Bryn Evans 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (captain), 1. John Schwalger
Substitutes: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Jacob Ellison, 18. Nick Crosswell, 19. Scott Waldrom, 20. Tyson Keats, 21. Jason Kawau/Willie Ripia, 22. David Smith