Heartbreaking loss for New South Wales side as they surrender a big lead.
The Canterbury Crusaders gave their Super 15 play-off chances a massive boost with a narrow 23-22 win over the NSW Waratahs in Christchurch.
The seven-time champion Crusaders looked unconvincing as they scored two tries to three, with only superboot Dan Carter securing victory through three penalties and two conversions.
The Waratahs, who dominated much of the game, would have nailed a last-gasp victory in the final minutes had not Berrick Barnes kicked a penalty attempt wide after the final siren.
“It was get-out-of-jail all right, we struggled all night,” Crusaders’ captain George Whitelock said.
“Probably the last 20 minutes we ground our way back into it and we were lucky to get away with a win.”
The win cements the Crusaders’ place in the top six, bearing down on New Zealand conference leaders and defending title holders the Waikato Chiefs, and leaves the Waratahs reliant on outside results for play-off berth.
The Waratahs attacked from the outset in a high-tempo start, dominating possession and running the ball but slamming into a resolute Crusaders’ defence which restricted them to a Brendan McKibbin penalty after five minutes.
The Sydneysiders maintained intensity and their patience was rewarded in the 20th minute when Cam Crawford scrambled over for a try after the Waratahs worked the ball through 17 phases of play, with McKibbin adding the extras.
Carter narrowed the gap for the Crusaders with a penalty but the Waratahs responded with a second try through winger Peter Betham, who was set up when Michael Hooper took off with lightning pace from a line-out.
The Crusaders, comprehensively outplayed in the first half, hit back with a try to Corey Flynn just before the break to make it 15-10.
But the respite from the relentless Waratahs’ attack was short-lived, with Bernard Foley touching down three minutes after the restart.
The Waratahs matched the Crusaders’ All Black-studded scrum and continued to dominate possession but the New Zealanders muscled their way back into the game through a Matt Todd try from a line-out drive in the 61st minute.
Carter’s unerring kicking added another two penalties to the Crusaders’ scoreline before the Waratahs’ scrum gave Barnes an opportunity to kick for victory from a penalty, only for the Wallaby to send it wide.