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Waratahs ready for New Zealand challenge

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/03/2017 Darren Walton

© Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images The NSW Waratahs are psyched for a season-defining fortnight as they bid to revive Australia's flagging Super Rugby title hopes.

The Waratahs' thrilling - and desperately needed - comeback win over the Melbourne Rebels was the highlight of yet another lamentable round from Australia's five battling franchises.

The Waratahs, Western Force, Queensland Reds and winless and last-placed Rebels occupy the bottom four positions on the Australasian Group ladder with a total of one measly victory against overseas opposition from 13 matches in 2017.

Queensland's round-one denial of the Sharks seems light years away after a 22-8 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Sunday extended Australian teams' run of defeats in non-derbies to a dirty dozen.

Alarmingly, the Reds have lost 11 straight matches away from home and already their finals hopes look forlorn ahead of Saturday night's hosting of the defending champion Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium.

"We've had a couple of losses on the trot so we need to get back home and sort our season out," skipper Stephen Moore said after two simultaneous sin-binnings proved costly, just as they did in the Reds' 30-point capitulation to the Lions in Johannesburg.

"We didn't win either of our games on the trip so that's disappointing, but hopefully the young players who were over here for the first time learn a bit about what it's like to play here and we can be better for that."

The Brumbies remain top of the Australian conference but have a fortnight to stew over another last-gasp loss on home soil before resuming against the Reds following next week's bye.

As they did against the Sharks three weeks ago, the Brumbies led all game until a 73rd-minute try to Aki Seiuli gave the Highlanders an 18-13 triumph in Canberra.

"The guys did everything right to win but sometimes it doesn't fall your way," said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.

A 45-17 trouncing for the Force against the Crusaders in Christchurch meant the Waratahs were Australia's only round-five winners.

Inspired by returning Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley in his first game of the season, the Waratahs recovered from a 19-point halftime deficit to snap a three-match losing streak and breathe life into their campaign.

But a showdown with undefeated tabe-toppers the Crusaders before a trip to Wellington to face the Hurricanes will determine if the Tahs' stirring win proves anything but a false dawn.

"It's the kind of victory you build from," said Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.

"Our task next week gets tougher, but we enjoy playing Kiwi teams. Something to look forward to."

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