Defending champions the Waratahs have reignited their Super Rugby campaign with a bonus-point 29-24 win over competition leaders the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Coming off last week’s 32-18 loss to the Stormers and boosted by the return of Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper at centre, the Waratahs’ win on Saturday afternoon was built on a strong second-half performance that shut out the previously unbeaten Hurricanes.
In cool and breezy conditions, the Hurricanes lost the chance to open out an early lead when Ardie Savea stormed clear to cross unopposed after barely three minutes, only to fumble the touchdown while under no pressure.
The defending champions made the Hurricanes pay nine minutes later, forcing the turnover with aggressive defence then showing patience to build phases before Wellington-born winger Peter Betham powered over from close range.
However, the Tahs’ 7-0 lead didn’t last long, with the Hurricanes storming back with two tries inside three minutes.
A simple blindside move from an attacking scrum set up the first, and skipper Conrad Smith crossed for his first try of the season, while Beauden Barrett’s speculative chip kick ahead soon after triggered the second try, with the fly-half regathering a tricky bounce to hare 60m and score.
The game continued fast and furious, and three tries came in the eight minutes before halftime.
Giant Waratahs lock Will Skelton crashed over after 32 minutes, and the Hurricanes replied five minutes later through a rampaging Brad Shields down the left touch.
And just when it looked as if the home team would take a seven-point lead into halftime, Betham collected his second try with an intercept as the Hurricanes tried to run the ball out from their own 22 after the hooter.
A storming run from openside flanker Michael Hooper 10 minutes after the restart set up the bonus-point try for fullback Israel Folau, and the Waratahs opened out a 29-19 lead as the hour mark neared with the first penalty of the match.
The Hurricanes gave themselves a chance with 10 minutes remaining, showing patience to build phases and territory before halfback TJ Perenara darted around the fringes of yet another ruck for the bonus-point try.