MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Bernard Foley scored an intercept try with less than eight minutes remaining as the New South Wales Waratahs overcame a rampant Melbourne Rebels side to score a 31-26 victory and consolidate their lead at the top of the Australian conference.
Foley's intercept try from halfway had come just three minutes after flanker Ned Hanigan had dragged his side back into the match after a Kurtley Beale intercept had given them field position.
The victory consolidated the Waratahs lead at the top of the Australian conference, moving the Sydney-based side to 39 points, four ahead of the Rebels, who could be considered unlucky to lose the game after dominating the second half.
The Rebels had been trailing 17-10 at halftime but were inspired by lock Matt Philip, who provided valuable go-forward for the home side as they controlled the ball and field position in the second half.
Flyhalf Reece Hodge creating scoreboard pressure by slotting four penalties, three in the second half, while fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and scrumhalf Michael Ruru scored tries for the home side.
Taqele Naiyaravoro and Will Miller scored first half tries for the visitors, who were forced to grimly hold on for the final five minutes as the Rebels hammered at their line after the double strike from Hanigan and Foley.
The Waratahs were missing Wallabies captain Michael Hooper due to a hamstring injury and fullback Israel Folau, who was suspended for one game following two incidents in the third test loss to Ireland last week in Sydney.
The Waratahs had taken a 17-10 lead by the break with Naiyaravoro finishing off a well-worked try before Miller, filling in for Hooper, crossed with time up in the first spell.
Miller's try could not have been better timed with the Rebels starting to build some momentum with fullback Dane Haylett-Petty locking the score at 10-10 from a superb first-phase try from an attacking lineout.
The home side, however, rallied behind Philip in the second half as the lock broke the line and cantered into the open field to give his side field position.
Ruru dragged his side level again before Hodge added three further penalties to give them a 26-17 lead as they built scoreboard pressure before the Waratahs pounced in the final 10 minutes.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Christian Radnedge)