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Super 14
Waratahs close out opening win
NZPA
February 14, 2009
Date/Time: Feb 14, 2009, 19:35 local, 06:35 GMT
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Hurricanes 22 - 26 Waratahs
Half-time: 5 - 19
Tries: Coles, Gear, Kirkpatrick
Cons: Kirkpatrick 2
Pens: Kirkpatrick
Tries: Horne, Norton-Knight, Tuqiri, Turner
Cons: Beale 3

The Hurricanes must have had a sinking feeling of déjà-vu as they battled in vain against the Waratahs in their Super 14 opener in Wellington. After losing their 2008 opener 20-3 to the Waratahs in Sydney, the Hurricanes looked equally out of sorts for much of tonight's game.

They struggled in the first half for cohesion and rhythm and trailed 5-19 at halftime before finding form in the second spell, only to see a well-organised Waratahs outfit control the match for a 26-22 win. Despite missing key All Blacks Piri Weepu and Conrad Smith, the Hurricanes started strongly, but couldn't convert early pressure into points.

They paid the inevitable price when fullback Sam Norton-Knight finished off some slick back-line passing to score under the posts after barely 10 minutes, fly-half Kurtley Beale slotting the conversion to make it 7-0.

Kirkpatrick hit the post with a 16th minute penalty as the Hurricanes seemed to lose shape, with fragmented forward play and aimless kicking never really threatening the Waratahs' defence. The Australians' dominance in set play, led by some sterling work from lock Dean Mumm, laid the foundation for a classic winger's try after 22 minutes.

Lote Tuqiri found extra space in the midfield and used his pace to run round some scrambling Hurricanes defence to give his team a 14-0 lead with another Beale conversion.

The Waratahs' third try came as the Hurricanes finally found some forward momentum, wing Zac Guildford bursting up the middle and off-loading to Ma'a Nonu 20 metres out. The All Blacks midfielder's kick found the foot of Beale and bounced straight into the arms of winger Lachlan Turner, who sprinted 80 metres for the try.

Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper didn't wait long in the second half to ring the changes, bringing on Jacob Ellison for John Schwalger and Jeremy Thrush for Bryn Evans at the 50-minute mark. The Hurricanes dominated territory and possession for much of the second spell, but with 20 minutes to go had only a Kirkpatrick penalty to show for it.

But the Wellingtonians tightened their set piece play and hooker Dane Coles crossed for his first Super 14 try to close the gap to 15-19 as Kirkpatrick rediscovered kicking form and made the conversion.

However, it took livewire centre Rob Horne just two minutes to restore the Waratahs' winning margin - and secure the bonus point - as he latched on to kick and caught the Hurricanes napping out wide. The Hurricanes took barely another minute to reply, as Thrush put wing Hosea Gear in the clear with a bullocking initial burst and a classy one-handed off-load.

Kirkpatrick converted but the Hurricanes couldn't breach the Waratahs' line again and the Australians held on for a hard-earned win.

Hurricanes skipper Rodney So'oialo was disappointed to come away with an opening day loss, especially considering their dominance of possession in the second half.

"We made a lot of mistakes in this game, and we'll hopefully go back and fix those little problems." he told Sky Sports. "We had a lot to say in the second half and obviously came out firing and dominated most of that half."

Waratahs captain Phil Waugh also saw plenty of room for improvement.

"You've got to score points when you get the chances, and fortunately tonight we did," Waugh said. "We played a lot in our own half and our kicking game wasn't up to scratch, but we've got six days to regroup, so hopefully we'll go back to Sydney and play a lot better than that."

Hurricanes: Cory Jane, Zac Guildford, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Kirkpatrick, Alby Mathewson, John Schwalger, Dane Coles, Neemia Tialata, Bryn Evans, Jason Eaton, Faifili Levave, Scott Waldrom, Rodney So'oialo (capt),

Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Jeremy Thrush/Api Naikatini, Karl Lowe, Willie Ripia, Jason Kawau, David Smith

Waratahs: Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Timana Tahu, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Al Baxter, Dean Mumm, Will Caldwell, Ben Mowen, Phil Waugh, Scott Fava

Replacements: Adam Freier, Jeremy Tilse, Chris Thomson, Wycliff Palu, Brett Sheehan, Daniel Halangahu, Tom Carter

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