The New South Wales Waratahs won a record ninth consecutive home game with a 34-16 bonus-point win over the Otago Highlanders to take over the lead of the Super 14 series yesterday.
The Waratahs recaptured their rhythm after the previous week’s turgid win over the Waikato Chiefs to score four tries, with the final try by replacement scrum-half Brett Sheehan securing the scoring bonus point in the final minute.
Fly-half Kurtley Beale was bang on target after landing only one penalty goal last week to chip in with three conversions and two penalties.
It was the Sydney team’s third straight win of the season and their ninth consecutive win at home stretching back to their last home defeat against the Chiefs (23-28) in April 2007.
Wallaby No. 8 Wycliffe Palu was a handful to bring down and scored the Waratahs’ third try, plunging over minutes after halftime, while skipper Phil Waugh celebrated his 100th Super Rugby cap with a typical all-action game.
The youthful Highlanders, who won here on their last two visits in 2004 and 2007, began well with fly-half Dan Bowden landing three penalties, but the Waratahs were more structured in attack and defense.
Wallaby winger Lote Tuqiri scored the opening try in the corner off a Beale grubber kick in the 24th minute and the home side were rewarded with a try after the halftime siren to flanker Ben Mowen after the ball was kept alive.
The Waratahs virtually clinched the contest with Palu’s try two minutes after the break and although skipper Jason Shoemark scored for the visitors in the 50th minute, they never got any closer than 11 points.
The Highlanders were short on experience without their injured All Blacks, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan and prop Jamie Mackintosh.
Otago remain win-less this season after previous losses to the ACT Brumbies (31-33) and Wellington Hurricanes (17-22).