Jonah Lomu, New Zealand's wing icon, had his untouchable reputation dented yesterday when he was sent off for his Super-12 side The Hurricanes in their 27-20 victory over New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.
Lomu was dismissed on the stroke of half-time for a second bookable offence and his team, who were twice down to 13 men when hooker Norm Hewitt and No 8 Filo Tiatia were sent to the sin-bin, had to survive a nervous second half to stay in the hunt for a Super-12 semi-final berth.
Lomu was sent to the sin-bin in the third minute for a dangerous tackle on the Waratah centre Nathan Grey before being ordered off by the South African referee, Andre Watson, for a deliberate knock-on when the home side seemed certain to score.
The Hurricanes had been well in control of the match at that stage, leading 27-3, but were forced to work overtime to secure the win which propelled them into the top four while ending New South Wales' semi-final hopes.
The Waratahs had taken an early 3-0 lead when Matthew Burke slotted over his first penalty after Lomu was shown the yellow card for spearing Grey into the Sydney Football Stadium turf. But they spent the remainder of the first half back-pedalling. Hurricanes fly-half David Holwell landed two penalties to nose his team in front before wing Brad Fleming sprinted the length of the field to score under the posts after making an interception.
The Hurricanes' scrum-half, Jason Spice, darted over for two quick tries after New South Wales lost John Welborn to the sin-bin for raking.
After Lomu's dismissal, Burke scrambled his way over for a try on the stroke of halftime which he converted to reduce the deficit to 27-10 at the break and give his team some hope of a comeback.
The Waratahs dominated the second half, spending large periods camped in their opponents' territory as the Hurricanes desperately hung on. The Australian side got within striking distance of the visitors when their wing Scott Staniforth burrowed his way over for a try after running off a short pass from captain Jason Little.
Burke cut the margin to seven points when he calmly booted a penalty seven minutes from time but the Waratahs failed to grab the late try they needed to force a draw.
The Australian Capital Territory Brumbies shrugged off New Zealand's Chiefs to run away to a 45-17 victory in Hamilton, having been held 17-17 at half-time.
The win put the Brumbies back on top of the table after losing the lead briefly to the Canterbury Crusaders, who demolished South Africa's Bulls 75-27 on Friday night.
Yesterday's game turned on a 41st-minute incident when the Chiefs' full-back, Todd Miller, with the scores tied at 17-17, put in a late tackle on Brumbies fly-half Stephen Larkham and was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.
While Miller was off, the Brumbies kept up the average of points scored this season while the opposition were a man short, adding 14 points without reply.
In the end the Brumbies strolled to a victory that had looked doubtful during the first half. Their normal slick play was lacking and apart from two tries by Stirling Mortlock and the first of Andrew Walker's hat-trick, they looked off the boil.
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