Skipper Bernard Foley yesterday stole a 50m intercept try, allowing the New South Wales Waratahs to consolidate their Australian conference lead while Jerome Kaino bade farewell to his home crowd as the Auckland Blues downed the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby.
The Waratahs trailed the Rebels by nine points with 11 minutes left before tries by Ned Hanigan and Wallabies flyhalf Foley earned them a thrilling 31-26 win in Melbourne.
The hard-fought victory increased the Waratahs’ advantage over the Rebels to four points at the top of the Australian conference with two rounds remaining to the finals.
The Rebels looked as if they would overtake the Waratahs at the top of the conference by scoring 16 unanswered points after halftime to lead 26-17 before the Waratahs pulled the game out of the fire.
Blindside flanker Hanigan crashed over for a try and three minutes later Foley, standing in as captain for injured Michael Hooper, intercepted a Billy Meakes pass and raced away from halfway to score under the bar.
The Waratahs had to grimly defend their line in the final stages to hold on to their lead as the Rebels threw everything at them.
“We found ourselves in a real grind tonight, it was really pleasing that the guys fought their way out of it, the Rebels really showed up and challenged us,” Foley said.
In Auckland, the Blues won 39-15, but it was the four yellow cards handed out during the game that became the center of attention.
South African referee Egon Seconds dished out two cards against the Reds in the space of two minutes in the first half that proved to be the defining period of the game. He then sent two Blues players off in the second half.
Long-time Blues and All Blacks enforcer Kaino was making his last appearance at Eden Park before heading to France at the end of the season to join Toulouse and was handed the captaincy when Augustine Pulu failed a fitness test before the game.
“This season has been tough. We’ve come close to it at times at home, but I’m stoked for our fans and especially the boys to get a result at home,” he said. “Maybe on reflection I’ll look back and think about all the memories, but tonight was an awesome result.”
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