WESTERN FORCE 18-23 NSW WARATAHS
New South Wales Waratahs held off a stirring Western Force fightback to secure a 23-18 victory in their Super Rugby match in Perth on Friday.
Tries from Tom Kingston and Dave Dennis gave the visitors a 17-3 lead but the Force battled back to take the lead briefly and by the end the Waratahs were hanging on.
The Force scored two tries through Brett Sheehan and Alfie Mafi in the second half but will rue the start they gave to the Waratahs as they fell to yet another close defeat.
"It was a tough night," Waratahs captain Benn Robinson said in a pitchside interview. "Early on in the second half we made some silly errors and let them back into the game."
The first half featured plenty of tactical kicking, collapsing scrums and sloppy errors but the Waratahs produced a moment of genuine class with the opening try in the 24th minute.
Coming from a turnover deep in their own half, the ball passed through five pairs of hands before flying winger Kingston raced down the touchline to score his fourth try in the last four matches.
The Waratahs laid siege to the home line in search of a second try for a full five minutes before halftime but were unable to breach the Force's defence and went in 10-3 up.
The Force were still a man down two minutes after the restart having had prop Salesi Ma'afu sin-binned for collapsing the scrum when flanker Dennis came storming round the front of the line-out to dash 30 metres to score.
The Force finally got across the Waratahs line when scrumhalf Sheehan scored against his former team under a pile of bodies after 51 minutes to cut the deficit to 17-8.
Now it was the home side's turn to lay siege to their opponents' line and, once Waratahs fullback Bernard Foley had been shown a yellow card, quick ball out to the wing allowed fullback Mafi to cross untouched.
David Harvey kicked his second penalty after 64 minutes to put the Force in front for the first time but the lead lasted just 60 seconds before Berrick Barnes put the Waratahs back ahead with his first.
The Wallabies flyhalf added another three points five minutes from the end and the Waratahs survived a late flurry to take their third win in seven matches this season.
BLUES 23-29 SHARKS
The Sharks, inspired by captain Keegan Daniel, ran in four tries to deepen the crisis at the Auckland Blues with a 29-23 victory in their Super Rugby clash at Eden Park.
The Durban-based South Africans had scored tries through lock Steven Sykes and fleet-footed hooker Craig Burden from intercepts in the first 17 minutes but looked to have been reined in when the Blues took the lead soon after halftime.
They roared back with tries from Daniel and centre Tim Whitehead inside two minutes, however, to open up a gap that the Blues could not bridge despite their obvious desperation to clinch a second win of the season.
As it was, the willing but error-prone Blues could manage only two tries through experienced All Black prop Tony Woodcock and centre Benson Stanley and remain rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Number eight Daniel seemed to be all over the park, dogged at the tackle and breakdown and dynamic with ball in hand and it was his intercept and 50 metre run in the fourth minute that allowed Sykes to open the scoring.
"We haven't been very consistent on the trip but to come to the home of rugby and get five points, we're very happy with that," he said in a pitchside interview.
"We had to defend most of the half and that's been one of downfalls so I'm proud of the way we defended and then we scored the four tries to get the bonus point so we're very happy."
Blues centre and World Cup winner Ma'a Nonu, by contrast, typified his team's lack of cutting edge by running into tacklers all evening and sharing in a glut of handling errors.
"Two intercept tries, that's 14 gift points and against a team like the Sharks that's too many points," said Blues skipper Keven Mealamu.
"The boys are trying really hard out there but these little things really cost us, you can't win in this competition with that many errors."