New South Wales secured a home Super 14 semifinal with an 18-11 win over Queensland in a derby match on Saturday that was short on attacking creativity or endeavour.
The win, coupled with Wellington’s loss to Auckland on Friday, ensured the Waratahs will finish second behind Canterbury and host a semifinal in Sydney next weekend.
Lock Dean Mumm and number eight Wycliff Palu crossed in the first half for New South Wales and winger Peter Hynes scored a consolation deep in injury time for Queensland — the only tries of a match that started shortly after a heavy downpour in Brisbane.
What was hyped as an attacking duel between two young and exciting flyhalves in Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper amounted to little, with the match between the traditional Australian rivals degenerating into an arm wrestle.
Waratahs flyhalf Beale missed three kickable penalties and a conversion in the first half, keeping Queensland in the match, while Cooper was unable to give the Reds’ attack any direction behind a scrum that was being barged around in the first 40 half.
Referee Matt Goddard did not help the flow, blowing for a stream of free kicks and penalties at the breakdowns.
Beale missed two penalty attempts from 35m within three minutes before Mumm crossed in the 21st minute from close range to give the visitors the early edge.
Both sides were kicking for territory and hoping for mistakes from the opposition as defence took priority.
The Reds, who were out of semifinal contention but vowed to upset New South Wales and stop their archrivals reaching the last four, closed the gap to 7-3 via Clinton Schifcofske’s penalty in the 35th minute.
But just on half-time, Palu rolled off the back of a maul after a line-out on the quarterline, caught the Reds defense dozing and ran 25m untouched for a soft try.
Beale’s conversion hit the upright, giving him 1-5 for the half.
Berrick Barnes took a left-foot dropped goal in the 45th minute to reduce the margin to 12-6, but that was as close as the hosts got.
Beale finally slotted a penalty in the 64th and added another two minutes later to make it 18-6 before Queensland’s late consolation as winger Hynes chased through a kick from Morgan Turinui after the siren to earn a bonus point.
”We knew it would be tough, we knew it wouldn’t be pretty, but we hung in there,” Waratahs skipper Phil Waugh said. ”There’s a lot to work on but it’s great to be heading back to Sydney.”
The Waratahs won all six matches at home this season and won their last semifinal at home, against the Bulls in 2005, before losing the final to the Crusaders.
The Waratahs lost their last semifinal, going down 16-14 away to the Hurricanes in 2006. — Sapa-AP