The New South Wales Waratahs defended staunchly in the dying minutes to down the Auckland Blues 27-22 in their first ever Super 14 win at Eden Park yesterday.
The efficiency of the Waratahs in every phase outlasted the erratic attacking flair of the Blues and got the Australians’ season back on track after two straight losses.
The Blues matched the three tries scored by the Waratahs, but their defensive frailty was on show again in a competition where they had scored the most points and conceded the most in the first six rounds.
The win put the Waratahs on top of the Super 14 table — before the rest of the weekend’s games — building on their strong start to the season, with four consecutive wins.
Auckland’s defensive woes were evident again from the start of the game as the Waratahs applied all the early pressure in the opening 20 minutes.
Their dominance paid dividends after six minutes when fly-half Daniel Halangahu went over after Blues prop Tevita Mailau missed the crucial tackle.
Halangahu added the conversion and a 13th minute penalty after another Blues defensive error, putting the Australians out to a handy 10-0 lead.
But the Blues hit back with a try of their own against the run of play after 17 minutes, when the ball was spread through the back-line to winger Anthony Tuitavake, who fended off two tacklers before running 40m for the try.
Their fortunes took a knock midway through the half when All Black lock Ali Williams had to leave the field with a leg injury, although another All Black, Anthony Boric, was on hand as a replacement.
Waratahs scrum-half Luke Burgess capitalized from a botched Blues scrum, intercepting a pass to run 23m for a 28th minute try converted by Halangahu.
After going into the break 17-8 down, the Blues returned with renewed purpose and flanker Onasa’i Auva’a burrowed over on 47 minutes.
The Waratahs stretched their buffer to 12 points after a try to hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and another conversion and penalty to Halangahu midway through the half.
Blues replacement back Michael Hobbs scored in the 67th minute, but after that the Waratahs remained solid.
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