Opportunistic tries either side of half-time were enough for the Waratahs to stagger out of a soaked House of Pain with a 20-3 victory over the Highlanders in the Vodacom Super 14.
On the backfoot throughout, and enjoying less than 30% territory, the Tahs defence and superb discipline were the reasons they were able to reclaim top spot in the competition.
In appalling conditions, handling errors abounded, but it was two from the home side that proved decisive. Twice fullback Peter Hewat sent kicks through, twice the Highlanders had men back and twice they failed to secure possession.
Morgan Turinui was the beneficiary right on half time as he dived on the loose ball, and less than five minutes into the second 40 Hewat showed his tap dance skills to dribble through for Sam Norton-Night to gather and earn a scoreline entirely opposing the run of play.
The Highlanders are a limited side, and this was no better exhibited in the rain and mud. Unable to reproduce the handling skills and attacking swagger that saw them snatch victory from the Cheetahs in similar conditions earlier in their campaign, attack after attack was repulsed by the light blue wall.
The fact that Ben Blair was afforded one kickable penalty in the entire 80 minutes is a testament to just how precise and unyielding the Tahs were on D.
The Crusaders have the opportunity to retake top spot with victory over the Stormers in Cape Town tomorrow, but Robbie Deans will know that just one slip up in their remaining round robin matches could be enough for the Tahs to guarantee a home final should they get through the semis.
Pen: Ben Blair
Tries: Morgan Turinui and Sam Norton-Knight
Cons: Peter Hewat 2
Pens: Hewat 2
By Chris Hewitt