The NSW Waratahs have revived their Super Rugby title defence with a spirited bonus-point win over the top-of-the-table Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Waratahs ran in four tries to end the Hurricanes’ unbeaten start to the season in a confident 29-24 display at the Cake Tin.
The victory lifted the titleholders back into the top six before their crucial Australian conference clashes against the Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies.
Opting for six forwards on the bench, NSW coach Michael Cheika got full value from his reserves as the Waratahs took command in the second half after the sides went to the interval locked at 19-19.
Star fullback Israel Folau’s 52nd-minute strike, followed by Bernard Foley’s conversion and a penalty goal gave the Waratahs a 10-point buffer.
But they had to hang over during a tense final 10 minutes following a soft try to Hurricanes livewire TJ Perenara.
In a seesawing first half, the Waratahs led, trailed and drew level after the siren sounded when winger Peter Betham grabbed his second try of the game.
Proving a worthy fill-in for Taqele Naiyaravoro, who was grounded in Sydney because of visa restrictions, Betham snapped up an errant, no-look pass from Beauden Barrett to score under the posts.
He also grabbed the opening try of the match in the 14th minute before the Hurricanes struck back with two tries in three minutes through Conrad Smith and Barrett, then edged in front just after the half-hour mark with another five-pointer to Brad Shields.
But the Waratahs were not to be denied, leaving the Hurricanes to settle for two consolation bonus points for bagging four tries and losing by less than eight points.
It was enough for the Wellington outfit to climb back above the Chiefs to top spot on the ladder at the halfway point of the competition.