Wallabies back Berrick Barnes missed a penalty with the last kick of the game to allow the Canterbury Crusaders a 23-22 comeback victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in Super XV yesterday.
The Waratahs had looked to be on the brink of a first victory in Christchurch since 2004, but Barnes steered his kick across the face of the posts to bring an end to his team’s hopes of a berth in the playoffs.
Crusaders flyhalf Dan Carter had given the home side the lead for the first time in the match with his third penalty six minutes from time after having converted the tries of forwards Corey Flynn and Matt Todd either side of halftime.
“We were lucky to get away with the win,” Crusaders flanker George Whitelock said in a post-match interview. “We don’t want too many of those.”
The Waratahs, packed with players who will join the Wallabies camp tomorrow for the British and Irish Lions series, crossed three times, through wingers Cam Crawford and Peter Betham in the first half, and flyhalf Bernard Foley early in the second.
Betham’s was the pick of the match, coming after open-side flanker Michael Hooper burst upfield and beat All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg for pace, before offloading to his winger, who somehow brushed off four tacklers to score.
Hooper was outstanding, particularly in the first half, as he underlined his claim for the Wallabies No. 7 shirt in the absence of the injured David Pocock.
The Crusaders tightened up their defense in the second half, and when flanker Todd was driven over in a maul after 62 minutes they always looked likely to overhaul the tiring Waratahs and keep their own playoff hopes alive.
Carter, the scourge of the 2005 Lions, converted Todd’s score and added two more penalties, the last from nearly halfway, to send the Waratahs home with just a single bonus point.
“I thought our attitude tonight was really excellent and obviously we were just one kick short,” said Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis, who did his chances of a place in the Australia back row no harm with an intercept to set up Foley’s try.
BRUMBIES 30, H’CANES 23
Nic White pressed his claim for a spot in the Australia squad for the British and Irish Lions series with a lively display as the ACT Brumbies edged the Wellington Hurricanes 30-23 in a tight Super XV contest yesterday.
The Brumbies were forced to defend their line for the final 12 minutes at Canberra Stadium as the Hurricanes fought to keep their season alive, but held on to cement their place at the top of the Australian conference.
Scrumhalf White, eyeing one of the six remaining places in Robbie Deans’ squad, scored a first-half try and made a couple of breaks to help put the Brumbies nine points ahead of the Queensland Reds, who play today.
Flanker Peter Kimlin also crossed in the second half and Christian Lealiifano, a strong contender for the Wallabies inside-center berth for the Lions series, kicked six penalties and a conversion for the hosts.
The Hurricanes did not make it easy for the Brumbies, particularly at the end, but their playoff hopes were all but extinguished, despite tries from Reynold Lee-Lo and T.J. Perenara, as well as 13 points from the boot of Beauden Barrett.
“It was outstanding by the boys,” said Brumbies skipper and No. 8 Ben Mowen, who is hoping to win his first Test cap against the Lions later this month. “To get that win, it’s super important for our season. At times there we just had to graft and graft ... great defense.”