The Waratahs made enormous inroads into securing a home semi-final – and raised hope they might win their first Super 14 title – by beating the Sharks to take second place on the Super 14 ladder last night.
Before a 26,402 crowd the Waratahs earned a bonus point as they gave the Sharks a four-tries-to-one hiding.
Rupert Guinness of RugbyHeaven writes that beforeWith their home record this season intact, the Waratahs now face three tough games away, starting with two in South Africa as from next week and then their round-14 derby against the Reds.
The pumped-up Waratahs, who led 3-0 at half-time courtesy of a Lote Tuqiri penalty in the 12th minute, charged to a 25-3 lead by the 65th after a four-try, 18-minute rampage.
The Waratahs first try, scored by Sam Norton Knight in the 47th minute, was the result of a sublime team effort.
The Waratah forwards set theplatform with a huge series of pick and drives, before five-eighth Kurtley Beale, playing one of his best games for NSW, floated a beautiful pass to his right to Norton-Knight, who bolted 15 metres to score.
Beale missed the conversion, but NSW were up 8-0.
The Waratahs’ second tryseven minutes later was set and scored by man of the match and No.8 Wycliff Palu. Palu forced a turnover with a massive hit on Sharks No. 5 AJ Venter. Hooker Adam Freier, who had just come on for Tatafu Polota-Nau, found a gap off the back of the ruck and ran before passing to Palu, who barged through two defenders to score. This time Beale’s conversion was good and NSW led 15-3. The Sharks, by now, were gasping, but the Waratahs did not take their hands off their throats – as they may well have in season’s past.
With NSW parked in the Sharks’ half and pressing, it was only a matter of time before they scored again – albeit not much time.
Again it was Beale who set the scoring move up with a deft chip kick 20m out that saw No.12 Tom Carter and winger Lachie Turner chase.
Carter was the first to the ball and grounded it perfectly to put the Waratahs up 20-3 after 59 minutes. Beale missed the conversion.
Then at the 65th minute came the Waratahs’s royal seal – Palu’s second try for the match and NSW’s fourth to secure a bonus point.
While Beale’s conversion bid was off, NSW had bolted to lead 25-3.
The Sharks scored a consolation try in the 78th minute to winger Odwa Ndungane to round out the full-time score 25-10.
The Waratahs only points in the first half were scored at the 12th-minute by Tuqiri.
NSW were awarded the penalty after a high tackle by Sharks No. 8 Ryan Kankowski on Waratahs halfback Luke Burgess.
But it was not five-eighth Beale who was given the task of kicking the penalty from 48m out and in front of the posts, but Tuqiri.
The Fijian-born star who had been heavily involved with runs and support play from the start, struck the ball sweetly to put NSW up 3-0.
His goal, struck with the calm of a seasoned goalkicker, vindicated the many hours he has invested in his kicking in training in recent weeks.
The Waratahs deserved to have already had points on the board considering their intent to attack from the kick-off.
The Waratahs delivered the message as soon as Beale kicked the ball to start the match, forcing the turnover in the very first maul.
NSW WARATAHS 25 (Wycliff Palu 2, Sam Norton-Knight, Tom Carter tries Kurtley Beale con Lote Tuqiri pen)
SHARKS 10 (Odwa Ndungane try Ruan Pienaar con Francois Steyn pen)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Nzl).