A Tom Carter hat-trick of tries kept the New South Wales Waratahs in the hunt for a Super 15 play-off spot with a 33-7 bonus point win over New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders in Sydney on Saturday.
The Waratahs scored five tries with Wallaby fullback Kurtley Beale in irresistible form to end Otago’s outside play-off hopes with just one round left to the top-six play-offs in the southern hemisphere championship.
Beale set up Carter’s opening try and finished the night by also laying on his side’s fifth try for replacement back Josh Holmes, kicking across field for Holmes to storm on to the ball and race away to score.
Beale landed four conversions to round off an influential night for the battered Waratahs.
The Sydney-siders paid a price for their win with Wallaby back Berrick Barnes again failing to complete a game. He was replaced after 33 minutes while Wycliff Palu came off with a shoulder injury in the second half.
Skipper Phil Waugh, who played 40 minutes in his comeback match from a hamstring injury, said he was proud of his team’s performance.
“We got stuck there a little bit after halftime but the guys have just got back from South Africa and to come out the way we did and get that bonus point is going to be pretty important,” Waugh said.
“The Highlanders are a tough team to play and the guys hung in well and it’s really pleasing to return to Sydney and perform the way we did.”
The Waratahs climbed back into the top six but their stay is dependent on other results in South Africa this weekend.
Beale, who is heading to the Melbourne Rebels next season, was in terrific form and was the difference as the Waratahs swept to a 12-0 lead inside the opening 15 minutes.
He slipped two tackles and then grubber kicked for Carter to score in the corner and six minutes later he counter-attacked from deep inside his own half and grubbered again in the leadup to Dave Dennis scoring.
Otago scored their only points through a converted try by Jason Rutledge before Carter crashed over for his second try to give the Waratahs a 19-7 halftime lead.
The Waratahs were marooned for much of the rain-lashed second half before finishing the stronger with Carter clinching his hat-trick and Holmes scoring.
It was the Highlanders’ third straight loss and ended their faint play-off hopes.
“We had a lot of field position and we played tight in the middle and turned over some ball at critical times and when you can’t score points you can’t build pressure,” said Otago skipper Jamie Mackintosh.
The Waratahs finish their regular season at home to the ACT Brumbies next week, with Otago away to the Auckland Blues. — AFP