Rugby: Hurricanes get away from toothless Tahs

By Paul Lewis

Julian Savea is congratulated. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea is congratulated. Photo / Getty Images

Waratahs 12 Hurricanes 33

These are dark days at the Waratahs, just as they are at the Blues. Losses are far more common than wins and, like the Blues, the Waratahs' coach is under pressure - with reports of Michael Foley's demise, as the old Mark Twain saying had it, greatly exaggerated.

Or maybe not. Foley may not see another season as the Waratahs have been puzzlingly toothless in this competition - hindered by injuries, but too reliant on the kick, playing the percentages and not factoring in enough X-factor.

Teams which have beaten them have generally employed that factor but a cold, damp night in Sydney didn't help the Hurricanes much. The passes that have magically flowed from hand to hand to tryline went more often from hand to grass in the first half.

The Waratahs benefited from the return of international winger Drew Mitchell, who gave them more penetration, and the selection of Sarel Pretorius at halfback indulged his running and support play.

But the inability to finish which has plagued them all season was still there.

After one break by Mitchell and good support from Pretorius, the forwards rumbled at the Hurricanes' line in the first half, only to free it for the backs and for Pretorius to throw a wonky pass, spilled at the crucial moment.

So it became a grinding affair, more Waratah-oriented than Hurricane-friendly, with the Australians knocking over the penalties - giving plenty of time to reflect that the Canes had not beaten the New South Welshmen in their last four attempts.

But the Waratahs fumbled, livewire halfback TJ Perenara pounced and the Hurricanes swooped on the ball like student rioters on a loose Bill English comment. With hooker Dane Coles, prop Ben May and second five Tim Bateman prominent, the Hurricanes worked the ball well, ending with big winger Julian Savea blowing through the tackle of Waratahs' fullback Bernard Foley to score.

The Waratahs continued banging away, using their big men as assault troops - Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sitaleki Timani - and gaining the edge up front. But still the crucial passes would not go where intended or would not stick; the Canes manned up, making their tackles and scrambling well.

So it continued - the Waratahs dominating field position and possession but making mistakes when they got to their opponents' 22. The second half scoring was restricted to penalties until the Canes made a rare excursion to Waratahs property - and promptly scored. Replacement Motu Matu'u dotted down after fine work from fullback Andre Taylor, No 8 Victor Vito and first five-eighths Beauden Barrett.

They wrapped it up with an easy try to Conrad Smith, cruelly demonstrating to the Waratahs how to score touchdowns and got the bonus point right on the hooter with a try to fresh halfback Chris Eaton - a soft score from a lineout. Vito had a big, busy game for the Hurricanes, as did Coles and Barrett was all class at first five. Flanker Brad Shields made an impact when he came on. Conversely, it wasn't a good night for Wallabies first five-elect Berrick Barnes, whose mistake in the second half led to Matu'u's try.

The Hurricanes needed this win to stay in touch with the top six and the play-offs. They have the Crusaders, a bye and the Chiefs to come. To have lost to the Wonky Waratahs would have been a signal that they were kidding themselves.

Waratahs 12 (B. Barnes 4 pens), Hurricanes 33 (J. Savea, M. Matu'u, C. Smith, C. Eaton tries; B. Barrett 2 cons, 3 pens). Halftime: 9-13.

- Herald on Sunday

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