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Waratahs aren't finals focused: McKenzie

By Adrian Warren 05/05/2008 09:23:03 AM Comments (0)

NSW Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie says his team will not be thinking semi-finals when they meet the Stormers next weekend, after squandering a chance to shore up a top-four position.

NSW (2nd, 37 points) could have ensured they entered the final round in two weeks in the top four with a victory in Pretoria, but lost 16-13 to the Bulls (10th, 19pts) after dominating early and leading 7-0.

They could fall as low as sixth next week if they lose to the Stormers (4th, 35pts) and other results don't fall their way.

The Stormers made it seven wins from their last eight games with a 20-10 victory in Cape Town over the Brumbies (8th, 29pts), whose own finals prospects look slim.

A loss in Cape Town could see NSW fall behind the Hurricanes (3rd, 36pts) who host the Force (9th, 28pts), and the Chiefs (5th, 33pts) who are home to the Lions (14th, 8pts) and the Sharks (6th, 32pts) who entertain the Cheetahs (13th, 13pts).

"We are not semi-finals focused, everyone keeps telling us about this and that, but we don't have any discussions within the team about semi-finals," McKenzie said.

"The last round is probably the first time I'll take a massive interest in what's going on because that will probably dictate whether or not we are in the final four."

NSW, who have confirmed the imminent departure of Wallabies backrower David Lyons to Welsh club Llanelli Scarlets on a four-year deal, will monitor the fitness of prop Matt Dunning (calf).

Australia was just a few seconds away from suffering the indignity of a total washout in round 12, but the Force emerged as the nation's sole victor with a last gasp 22-21 home win over the Chiefs.

Five-eighth Matt Giteau kicked a penalty after the final siren at Subiaco Oval.

The result just about kept the West Australian team mathematically alive in the finals chase and the game was notable for an auspicious debut by highly-rated 17-year-old Force back James O'Connor, the youngest debutant in Super 14 history.

The Force are level on points with the Brumbies who meet the Bulls in Pretoria next week.

"We've got to work to take 10 points out of our last two games, that's our focus," Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher said.

"It's all about pride in ourselves as professionals, we have no choice but to play well."

Queensland (11th, 16pts) suffered a 35-22 loss to the Blues (7th, 31pts) in Brisbane.

The Reds turned a 27-17 halftime deficit into a 22-20 lead, but the Blues piled on 15 successive points.

They have the toughest assignment in the competition next week at home to the ladder-leading Crusaders (47pts), who notched their 10th victory in 11 games with an 18-10 home win against the Sharks.

In the other round 12 game, the Highlanders (12th, 15pts) pulled a little further away from wooden spoon territory with a 31-28 home victory over the Cheetahs.

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