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Waratahs back in play-off contention

The New South Wales Waratahs put their campaign to reach the play-offs back on track with an emphatic 46-19 win over the Waikato Chiefs in a Super 14 match in Hamilton on Saturday.

The Waratahs, facing a do-or-die battle after their woeful away loss to the Highlanders last week, scored seven tries and kept their opponents scoreless for an hour to lift themselves into third place in the standings with a round left to go.

The Waratahs have a chance to seal a semifinal spot if they can win at home to the Wellington Hurricanes in the last round of matches next week.

“It was pleasing obviously coming off our pretty disappointing performance last weekend,” Waratahs flanker Phil Waugh said in a televised interview.

“Discipline was very good, we stuck to our strategy and our patience was good and we came away with some good points early in the game which was very important.”

Berrick Barnes’ shift to flyhalf after spending the last few weeks at inside centre proved a masterstroke, the Wallaby playmaker scoring a try and having a hand in several others in a 12-point game with two conversions and a penalty.

Bulky winger Drew Mitchell put the Waratahs on the board in spectacular fashion, shimmying between two defenders then chipping the ball from the 22 and charging on to it for a try in the third minute.

Number eight Ben Mowen then found a gaping hole in the Chiefs’ line to make it 10-0, shrugging off two defenders before planting the ball between the posts twenty minutes later.

Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was then credited with the Waratahs’ third in the first half-hour after the Chiefs’ forwards were barged over their own line in a rolling maul at the left-hand corner.

The Waratahs marched to a 27-0 lead after Barnes intercepted an errant pass to charge over the line less than a minute after the break, before fullback Tim Nanai-Williams finally broke the Chiefs’ drought in the 61st minute.

The mini-fightback was cut off when fullback Kurtley Beale scored a try three minutes later after a deftly placed kick from Barnes.

Beale then showed his own kicking skills, dribbling a ball across the goal line for winger Lachie Turner to score the Waratahs’ sixth.

Chiefs centre Jackson Willison crossed for two late tries to peg the deficit to 39-17 with a few minutes remaining, but the Waratahs’ reserve hooker Damien Fitzpatrick completed the rout in the left corner after receiving a pass flung over Drew Mitchell’s head. – Reuters

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