New South Wales throttled Otago 20-3 to earn a provisional share of the lead in Super 14 rugby on Friday, while the Western Force remained stuck on the bottom with a second straight draw.
Centers Morgan Turinui and Sam Norton-Knight scored the only tries in rainy Dunedin, New Zealand, virtually ensuring the New South Wales Waratahs of a home semifinal while ending the Otago Highlanders' faint playoff hope.
The win lifted the Waratahs level with the Canterbury Crusaders at the start of the 12th of 14 rounds. The Crusaders play South Africa's Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Replacement winger Wylie Human's last-minute try allowed the Cats to draw the visiting Western Force 34-34 in Johannesburg.
Captain Andre Pretorius' conversion attempt for the win drifted wide left, allowing the Cats to remain one spot above the last-placed Force, who still seek their first win. Last week, they drew with the Crusaders.
Both New South Wales tries were set up by fullback Peter Hewat, who kicked two conversions and two penalties to reclaim his place as the leading scorer in this season's provincial competition.
Hewat's high kick, from a Highlanders turnover, dropped behind the defense in the 38th minute and was pounced on by Turinui after an Otago defender carried it back over his own goal line.
Another Hewat up-and-under was dropped by Highlanders fullback Ben Blair near his 22-meter line. Hewat regained the ball and handed an infield pass to Norton-Knight who slewed over near the posts.
New South Wales, with the best defense in the competition, held an opponent tryless for the fifth time this season.
Otago hooker Anton Oliver was cited for allegedly stamping or trampling, and will appear on Monday before a judiciary.
There was little defense on display at Ellis Park between two sides trying to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Force looked liked ending their winless drought with a first half which featured two of center Scott Staniforth's three tries and another to left winger Digby Ioane for a 21-3 lead.
The Cats, losers of eight straight matches, rallied with second-half tries to lock KleinJan Tromp, Delaray du Preez, center Jaque Fourie, and Willem Stoltz.
Cameron Shepherd, who converted all four of the Force's tries, added two penalties as his side appeared to succumb to the altitude. He missed a late penalty to give his side reprieve at 34-29, then Human dived over at the left corner for the tying try, but Pretorius couldn't make the conversion.
In Saturday's other games, third-placed Wellington host Waikato, semifinal-hopeful ACT welcome Queensland, the Bulls square off with the Sharks in Pretoria, and the Cheetahs meet Auckland in BloemfonteinReuse content