Waratahs reclaim Weary Dunlop Shield and move to top of Australian conference

Mar 21 • General News, Super Rugby • 2060 Views • Comments Off on Waratahs reclaim Weary Dunlop Shield and move to top of Australian conference

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NSW Waratahs 32 – Melbourne Rebels 8
Asteron Life Super Rugby Round 6, Allianz Stadium

The Weary Dunlop Shield is back in NSW after a Kurtley Beale-inspired Tahs outfit registered a 32-8 home victory over the Melbourne Rebels.

Despite a challenging opening half, the potent Tahs’ attack clicked into gear in the second half, running in four tries to secure a crucial bonus point victory. Kurtley Beale turned in a Magners Man of the Match performance, orchestrating three tries against his former team – two of which went to prolific fullback Israel Folau.

Head Coach Michael Cheika praised his side for overcoming a determined Rebels team with some bruising physicality, which opened the door for the pulsating attacking display in the second stanza.

“This idea that we’ll come out, dart around and score some tries – that’s fantasyland. In footy you’ve got wear your opposition down as well, and take your opportunities when they come,” Cheika said.

“Our physicality was good and that told me that the players were on, they want to get stuck in. Even though it’s not perfect, we’re into the game physically and we’re knocking on the door.”

Captain Dave Dennis echoed the sentiments of his coach, attributing the bonus point win to a dominant performance up front.

“I thought at half time if we kept at it we’d open them up. We thought we were on the edge of scoring some points. There was a feeling there at the break that the physicality we showed in the first half was wearing them down,” Dennis said.

The Tahs were off to another blistering start when flanker Michael Hooper, playing his 50th Super Rugby game, burst through the middle in the fourth minute and found the bruising Jacques Potgieter in space out wide. Feeding off his forwards’ momentum, flyhalf Bernard Foley flung the ball to winger Alofa Alofa, who dummied past the cover defence to dot down for the team’s first try – his second in a promising rookie season.

A dominant display from the Tahs’ forwards saw the home side control possession and territory for the next 10 minutes of play but some sloppy execution saw good work by Folau and Dennis go unrewarded.

The Rebels made the Tahs pay for their inaccuracy through skipper Scott Higginbotham, who barged over to level the scores on the half hour mark. But obstruction from the ensuing kickoff by Tamati Ellison gifted Foley his first penalty goal, and the Waratahs an 8-5 advantage.

Foley and Bryce Hegarty traded penalty goals in the dying stages of the half, and the Tahs entered the break with a slim 11-8 advantage.

Just as they did in the first half, the Tahs stormed out of the sheds and straight onto the attack. From a lineout 40m out, Beale swung the ball inside to high school teammate Peter Betham, who burned former Waratah Tom Kingston on the outside to dive into the left hand corner. Foley nailed the conversion, in spite of a difficult angle, and the Tahs held a comfortable 10-point buffer after 45 minutes.

From the restart Foley feigned a clearing kick, instead opting to glide effortlessly past two defenders, before chipping ahead and earning his side a lineout on the five metre line. The dynamic flyhalf backed it up with a lovely inside ball to a flying Alofa, who was cut down inches from the line by Ellison. Replacement prop Benn Robinson looked to have scored from the next phase but after a lengthy deliberation from the TMO, the prop was ruled to have fumbled picking the ball up.

However a ruthless Tahs outfit refused to relent and, after forcing a ruck turnover, Nick Phipps hit a barnstorming Beale on the counterattack. The impressive playmaker ran a wide angle across field before switching the ball back inside to Folau, who ran in untouched for his seventh try of the season. Foley hit an easy conversion attempt and advanced the score to 25-8 with half an hour to play.

Foley’s tactical nous again came to the fore after the kickoff, as he nudged a deft clearance kick in behind a scrambling Angus Roberts. Determined kick-chase pressure from Betham forced Roberts into error, and the Rebels’ fullback was sin binned in the 55th minute after preventing a quick lineout.

The bonus point try came in the 73rd minute, when some fancy footwork from Beale allowed him to step inside Scott Fuglistaller and gift Folau his second of the night. Foley’s third conversion sent the score to 32-8 and put the result, and the Weary Dunlop Shield, beyond doubt. Folau’s double takes his tally for the season reach eight, taking him half way to eclipsing Super Rugby’s highest season tally, currently held by Rico Gear and Joe Roff (15).

The Tahs head to South Africa tomorrow, where they’ll take on the Sharks in Durban on Sunday March 30 (2am AEST), before travelling to Cape Town to face the Stormers (Sunday, April 6 3.10am AEST). They then return to Australia via Perth, where they meet the Western Force at NIB Stadium on Saturday April 12 (5.40pm AEST), before finally returning home to host the Bulls in a big round 10 Easter Saturday clash at Allianz Stadium (April 19, 7.40pm).

You can follow all the away games LIVE on Fox Sports, or catch up on the action and all the match stats with our online matchcentre.

Alternatively, fans will be able to watch all the highlights from every game online on the NSW Waratahs’ YouTube channel, Tah TV.

NSW Waratahs 32 (tries: Alofa; Betham, Folau 2 cons: Foley 3; pens: Foley 2) def Rebels 8 (tries: Higginbotham; pens: Hegarty)

NSW Waratahs: 1. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 2. Tatafu Polota Nau (Parramatta), 3. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 4. Will Skelton (Sydney University), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 6. Jacques Potgieter (Eastern Suburbs), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly), 8. Dave Dennis (captain, Sydney University), 9. Nick Phipps (Sydney University), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 11. Peter Betham (Sydney University), 12. Kurtley Beale (Randwick), 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Alofa Alofa (West Harbour), 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University).

Replacements: 16. Tolu Latu (Sydney University), 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University), 18. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 19. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 20. Stephen Hoiles (Randwick), 21. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 22. Rob Horne (Southern Districts), 23. Matt Carraro (Randwick).

Rebels: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Pat Leafa, 3. Paul Alo-Emile, 4. Hugh Pyle, 5. Luke Jones, 6. Sean McMahon, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Scott Higginbotham (captain), 9. Luke Burgess, 10. Bryce Hegarty, 11. Tom English, 12. Mitch Inman, 13. Tamati Ellison, 14. Lachlan Mitchell, 15. Angus Roberts

Replacements: 16. Shota Horie, 17. Max Lahiff, 18. Cruze Ah-Nau, 19. Cadeyrn Neville, 20. Colby Fainga’a, 21. Ben Meehan, 22. Male Sa’u, 23. Tom Kingston

Half-time: NSW Waratahs 11 – Rebels 8

Yellow cards: Angus Roberts (55th min)

Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)

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