The New South Wales Waratahs clinched a home semifinal berth in Super 12 rugby and the Wellington Hurricanes all but assured themselves of a playoff spot with groundbreaking victories Friday.
New South Wales beat the Queensland Reds 27-8, the Waratahs' first win over the Reds in nine Super 12 matches. It left the Waratahs with 40 points from 10 matches and a guaranteed Sydney semifinal on the weekend of May 20-21.
Wellington, meanwhile, is in third place after beating New Zealand North Island rivals Auckland 22-10, ending a 10-year victory drought against the Blues. The Hurricanes aren't guaranteed of a playoff berth, however, having to face the second-place Canterbury Crusaders in the final round and with two teams outside the top four within range.
In matches Saturday to conclude the 11th round, fourth-place Otago and Canterbury play at Dunedin, New Zealand, and the defending champion ACT Brumbies, all but eliminated from finals contention, take on Waikato at Canberra.
In South Africa, the Sharks host the sixth-place Bulls at Durban and the Stormers play the Cats at Cape Town. The Blues and Bulls still have a chance of making the semifinals.
Winger and former Queenslander Peter Hewat, who was targeted as a possible weak link by the Reds before the match, scored 22 points for the Waratahs, including a try from a Mat Rogers cross-field kick in the 59th minute.
Hewat, who also kicked five penalty goals and a conversion, has nine tries this season and 137 points.
"I played probably five seasons in Queensland in Brisbane club footy and they didn't give me an opportunity," Hewat said. "There was plenty of chat during the week, but we silenced them on the scoreboard."
Julian Huxley scored Queensland's only try before lumbering prop Gareth Hardy scored his first Super 12 try in the final two minutes before a sellout crowed of 38,220 at Aussie Stadium in Sydney.
At Auckland, the Hurricanes outscored the Blues 19-7 after the teams were tied 3-3 at halftime, posting their first win over Auckland in the competition.
The game marked the 100th Super 12 appearance of Hurricanes captain Tana Umaga.
The Hurricanes took charge of the match with three tries against the run of play in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
The Blues applied massive offensive pressure for the remainder of the match but breached the Hurricanes' defense only once -- when fullback Isa Nacewa scored.
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