SYDNEY - Winger Alofa Alofa scored two tries and flyhalf Bernard Foley added 16 points as the New South Wales Waratahs beat the ACT Brumbies 39-8 Saturday to lift themselves atop of the Super Rugby table.
The Waratahs' five-try, bonus point victory carried them into first place, three points ahead of South Africa's Sharks who are not involved in the weekend's 17th round as the Springboks conclude their June test program. The Sharks have led the tournament throughout the season and might reclaim first place when they return to action next weekend.
In the meantime, the Waratahs, who had already clinched a playoffs place, made a strong bid for a first or second place finish which guarantees a home semifinal.
Their win came at a heavy cost as their captain Dave Dennis suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury.
A preliminary diagnosis suggested Dennis suffered a repeat of an anterior cruciate ligament strain which would likely rule him out of the post-season.
"It's horrible. (Dennis) has been our leader from the front this year and you never like to see that," said Michael Hooper, who replaced Dennis as captain. "I think we put it out there for (Dennis) in the second half.
"I'm very proud, very proud to go the 80 minutes and keep putting points on until the last minute. It's a feature that's come into our game this year and one we need to stick with if we want to be competitive in the finals."
Prop Benn Robinson scored the Waratahs' opening try in the 15th minute, in what was a tight first half struggle, and outstanding backrower Wycliff Palu was rewarded for a Man of the Match performance with the fifth try in the 80th minute.
In between, Alofa Alofa scored a try in each half, including the crucial fourth, bonus point try, and Foley ran from first receiver for a try in the 61st minute which complemented his strong all-round performance.
The Brumbies held sixth place, just inside the top-six playoffs zone, ahead of the final match of the round between the Western Force and Blues. Their 13th loss to the Waratahs in 24 meetings put a dent in their bid to reach the playoffs as they have a bye next round and only one more match before the end of the regular season.
"Obviously at the end the scoreboard doesn't reflect a very close game but I can honestly say as a unit we're very proud," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. "There were some moments of championships football in there, not consistent enough and the Tahs were very good tonight.
"I think the first 30 minutes reflected our intent and it was probably some of the best defence we've had all year. But the Tahs were outstanding tonight. All their big guys stood up and performed."
Robinson's try, from a forward drive, and Alofa Alofa's, from an intercept, gave the Waratahs a 14-5 lead at halftime. Jesse Mogg scored a spectacular try for the Brumbies, rising high to win an in-goal contest for possession with high ball specialist Israel Folau.
The game opened up in the second half, to the Waratahs' advantage, and Folau played a role in Alofa Alofa's second try. Palu then scored the try of the match which was started by a brilliant, weaving run by Hooper.
New South Wales 39 (Alofa Alofa 2, Benn Robinson, Bernard Foley, Wycliff Palu tries; Bernard Foley 4 conversions, penalty; Kurtley Beale penalty), ACT 8 (Jesse Mogg try; Christian Lealiifano penalty). HT: 14-5.
© Coast Reporter