Waratahs run Crusaders close
February 4, 2006

The HSBC Waratahs have fallen just two points short of victory in their Rotomahana Challenge match against the Crusaders, turning around a 24 point half time deficit before going down 32-30 at Aussie Stadium.

In their final hit-out before the start of the Tooheys New Super 14 Competition, the Waratahs conceded four first half tries before staging a recovery that got them back to within a kick of victory.

The match started with the reigning Super 12 champions in red hot form, flyhalf Daniel Carter kicking them into the lead with a penalty goal in the second minute of play.

Nine minutes later the Crusaders were in for their first try, no.8 and man of the match Mose Tuiali'i snapping up a spilled ball at the lineout before sprinting 20 metres to the line.

Carter converted and the Crusaders were out to a handy lead.

21 minutes in the Waratahs got themselves on the board through a Peter Hewat penalty goal, however the advantage was nullified when lock Ross Filipo scored down the short side approaching the half hour mark.

Four minutes later they were in again with Tuiali'i back in the thick of the action, laying on a gift five pointer for inside centre Aaron Mauger to open up a 19 point lead.

On the cusp of half time the Crusaders made it 24 when lock Chris Jack, in a seemingly offside position snatched an intercept to send Leon MacDonald over in the corner.

Trailing 27-3 going into the second forty the home side knew they must score first to be any hope of turning the match around and that they did, Shaun Berne turning a period of sustained attack into points with a try under the posts eight minutes after the break.

It was then coach Ewen McKenzie introduced Wycliff Palu into the match, and with his first touch of the ball the rampaging flanker laid on a try for backrow partner Rocky Elsom.

Hewat converted, and then added another penalty goal to make the match a contest once again.

With their lead whittled down to a converted try the Crusaders stemmed the flow with a second try to Tuiali'i, opening up a nine point buffer with just under a quarter of the match remaining.

Not to be outdone Palu was again on the spot to score his side's third try, crashing over off a Tatafu Polota-Nau short ball to edge the Waratahs back to 32-27.

With the ascendency swinging back their Way the Waratahs mounted another raid on the Crusaders line, and when replacement Wyatt Crocket was yellow carded for a breakdown infringement Hewat kicked the Waratahs to within a penalty of the lead.

After two attempts at penalty goal went wide, Hewat had the opportunity to steal victory with just three minutes of play remaining after the tiring Crusaders were again penalised at the breakdown.

Faced with a penalty attempt from 40 metres out and five metres in from touch, Hewat's attempt just faded to the left of the uprights.

From there the Crusaders managed to shut down the match, skipper Richie McCaw lifting the Rotomahana Trophy on the back of a 32-30 victory.

The Trophy now heads to Christchurch, where it will remain until it is contested again one week before the start of the 2007 Super 14 season.

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