The NSW Waratahs’ prospects of making the Super Rugby finals have suffered a crushing blow, with a 28-17 home loss to the Hurricanes.
A magical solo try by outside centre Israel Folau helped the Waratahs overturn an early 11-0 deficit on Saturday night to lead 17-11 early in the second half.
However, the Hurricanes produced an unanswered run of similar proportions with 17 unanswered points, which tilted the game irrevocably in their favour and gave New Zealand teams a 4-0 record over Australian teams in the penultimate round.
The Waratahs head into next week’s final round level on points with the Brumbies, who are at the top of the Australian conference by virtue of having notched one more win.
If the Waratahs lose to the Blues in Auckland next Friday, and go down without getting a bonus point, the Brumbies will wrap up the Australian conference title before their game at home to the Force on Saturday.
The Hurricanes produced the more consistent, effective and enterprising play at Allianz Stadium, with classy five-eighth Beauden Barrett finishing with 18 points.
Barrett made sure their early dominance was reflected on the scoreboard.
He pounced on a chip kick from winger Cory Jane to score a try and slotted two penalties.
NSW worked their way back into the game in the second quarter and trailed by just one point at halftime.
Giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro crashed over the line from a pick and drive, with five-eighth Bernard Foley adding a conversion and penalty.
The latter kick came from the third penalty awarded to the Tahs after the halftime siren.
Foley’s penalty came after Hurricanes centre Willis Halaholo was sin-binned for a high tackle on the Waratahs five-eighth.
Folau put the Tahs ahead in the 43rd minute, when he showed dazzling footwork to elude three defenders and run over another, with Foley converting.
Jane and fellow All Blacks back Julian Savea scored well-executed tries and the Tahs were unable to reply, with Naiyaravoro sent to the sin bin for a second straight week.