The defending champion New South Wales Waratahs ended the Hurricanes' unbeaten start to the season at seven matches Saturday, winning 29-24 in a thrilling match in which both teams scored four tries.
Fullback Israel Folau scored a bonus point try in the 51st minute which broke a 19-19 halftime deadlock and set the Waratahs on the way to their fifth win in eight matches this season. The Hurricanes took a consolation bonus point which returned them to the top of the table after they had conceded first place to the Chiefs, who beat the Crusaders 26-9 on Friday.
Winger Peter Betham scored a double, including a crucial intercept try on the tick of halftime to help the Waratahs revive their shaky title defense.
"I'm very proud to be part of that game," Waratahs captain Dave Dennis said. "Not many people gave us a chance against the ladder leaders but there was a lot of belief that we could come over here and put in a good performance.
"Though it wasn't perfect it was a really big win for us."
Both teams scored three tries in a first half which produced possibly the best rugby of the season to date.
Betham scored the first try of the match in the 13th minute after the Hurricanes had squandered a try-scoring opportunity when flanker Ardie Savea dropped the ball over the line.
The Hurricanes then reclaimed the lead with tries to center Conrad Smith and flyhalf Beauden Barrett in a two-minute span in the middle of the half. They took a 14-7 lead but the Waratahs slashed that margin with a 33rd minute try to giant lock Will Skelton. Dennis was also run down inches from the line, preventing a try that might have made the Waratahs' lead decisive.
Prop Brad Shields scored to give the Hurricanes a 19-12 advantage but the Waratahs tied the scores with an intercept try to Betham immediately before halftime.
The Hurricanes played a high-risk style of play which made them dangerous from all points on the field but also kept the Waratahs in the game. Folau's try gave the Waratahs a crucial lead after halftime and flyhalf Bernard Foley kicked a penalty which made the advantage 10 points and prevented a Hurricanes' rally.
The Hurricanes scored the last try of the match through scrumhalf T.J. Perenara but couldn't further close the gap.
"We played a good side and we weren't good enough," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. "We're a good attacking side, we felt we created a lot of opportunities on attack but we just leaked too many tries."
New South Wales Waratahs 29 (Peter Betham 2, Will Skelton, Israel Folau tries; Bernard Foley 3 conversions, penalty), Hurricanes 24 (Conrad Smith, Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields, T.J. Perenara tries; Beauden Barrett 2 conversions), HT: 19-19.