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Hurricanes win home semi

Published: 6:05AM Sunday May 14, 2006 Source: Reuters

New Zealand's Hurricanes defeated Australia's New South Wales Waratahs 19-14 on Saturday to finish the Super 14 competition in second place and secure home advantage for next week's semifinals.

The Waratahs, who were leading the competition standings on percentages before losing their last two matches, finished third and will play the Hurricanes in Wellington next week.

The Crusaders, who finished top, will host the Bulls in the other semi.

The Hurricanes scored three first-half tries to open up a 19-7 lead at the break on Saturday then defended magnificently in the second half against a wave of Waratah attacks.

Wing Sam Norton-Knight scored a try 15 minutes from time to cut the margin to just five points but the Waratahs failed to cross again for the try they needed to host the semi-final.

"We had enough ball to win a couple of games there...but it was their defence that won it for them," NSW captain Chris Whitaker said in a televised interview.

NSW were dealt a blow before kickoff when Australian test winger Wendell Sailor was stood down over an alleged breach of the players' code of conduct, forcing coach Ewen McKenzie to reshuffle his backline.

The Hurricanes made a flying start to the match when wing Shannon Paku finished off a spectacular move involving Tana Umaga and Ma'a Nonu to score the opening try after just seven minutes.

Umaga then combined with Jerry Collins to set up a second try for loosehead prop John Schwalger in the 17th minute to put the visitors 12-0 ahead at the Sydney Football Stadium.

NSW opened their account when openside flanker Phil Waugh dived over in the left corner after Rocky Elsom drew two defenders but the Hurricanes regained their 12-point advantage with a try in the last minute of the first half.

With the siren about to sound, Chris Masoe charged down Peter Hewat's clearance kick and Jimmy Gopperth won the race to the rebound.

Wellington spent almost the entire second half camped in their own quarter and were twice reduced to 14 men because of infringements.

NSW spurned several opportunties for penalty goals in pursuit of tries but their only success came when a simple loop-around gave Norton-Knight a free run to the line.

"We've been working really hard on our defence and it paid off," Hurricanes skipper Rodney So'oialo said.

"We knew they wanted a home semi as well so that made it even harder for us."

MVP Points: 3. Jerry Collins, 2. Ma'a Nonu, 1. John Schwalger.

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