NSW Waratahs have moved to the top of the overall log with their 39-8 win over the Brumbies n Saturday
The NSW Waratahs have scored an emphatic 39-8 bonus-point win over the ACT Brumbies at ANZ Stadium. The Tahs scored five tries to one, including a brace to winger Alofa Alofa, to overpower their conference rivals in an imposing display leading into finals time.
The win sees the Tahs move to first place overall on the Super Rugby ladder, and record five consecutive wins for the first time since 2010. However, the victory was soured by a first-half knee injury to inspirational skipper Dave Dennis.
Head Coach Michael Cheika conceded the loss of his captain was a huge blow for the team leading into the finals but he was happy to draw positives from the physicality of his forwards against an aggressive Brumbies pack.
“They’re skilful guys, and they’ve got the physique to dominate, and I think they’re just enjoying working hard,” said Cheika afterwards. “It’s a real badge of honour when you feel like you’re a hard worker. If you’re a hard worker people will respect you and they’ve certainly earned the respect of their team,” Cheika said.
Captain Dennis concurred, praising his forwards for fronting up for a full 80 minutes of physical football to run over a vaunted ACT side.
“Over the last 18 months the one thing we’ve tried to hang our hat on is working hard and be a strong physical team that never gives in. I think every week you’re getting that consistency in how hard we’re going to work and how physical we’re going to be.”
The kicking of Brumbies trio Jesse Mogg, Christian Lealiifano and Nic White kept the Waratahs pinned in their half for the first 15 minutes of the game, but the home side showed a steely resolve to repel the early pressure.
A tighthead scrum win on halfway kicked the Waratahs’ attack into gear and it was prop Benn Robinson, playing in his 130th match for NSW, who burrowed in from close range to open the scoring. Bernard Foley’s conversion extended the lead to 7-0 after 17 minutes.
Looking to counter quickly, the Brumbies swung the ball to their left from the kickoff, but an errant pass from replacement Rodney Iona was pounced upon by Alofa, who sprinted 60 metres to score his side’s second try in as many minutes.
Foley’s conversion had the visitors reeling but the 2013 finalists weren’t giving up without a fight and, 10 minutes later, Mogg was the beneficiary of a Lealiifano cross field kick for the Brumbies’ opening try.
Five minutes after the Brumbies score the Tahs were dealt another damaging blow, as Dennis was helped from the field with a serious knee injury. As the skipper came off, Kurtley Beale lined up a penalty kick but his attempt drifted wide and the score remained 14-5 at half-time.
A Brumbies’ knock on from the restart gave the Tahs an early attacking scrum, and another huge effort from the forwards presented Foley with a chance at goal. The Wallabies flyhalf duly converted but the Brumbies countered three minutes later through Lealiifano to regain a nine-point deficit.
Israel Folau produced a dazzling run midway through the half, weaving past three defenders and carrying three or four more on his way to the try line. However the TMO ruled the grounding was inconclusive, and the Tahs had to settle for a 5 metre scrum.
The Waratahs were rewarded for their consistent pressure minutes later, with Fotu Auelua sent to the bin for repeated team infringements.
It only took a minute to land the knockout blow, as Magners Man of the Match Foley jinked around Leon Power in close to dot the ball down under the posts. His conversion extended the lead yet further.
Aeulua’s absence continued to cripple the Brumbies in defence, and it was Adam Ashley-Cooper who exploited the overlap, beating two defenders before finding the flying Rob Horne in space. Horne darted his way into the 22 but his offload drifted forward into the hands of Alofa and a chance went begging.
The Tahs made amends two minutes later, when some slick hands from Foley and Folau sent Alofa into the corner for his second and the crucial four-try bonus point. Foley nailed the sideline conversion, sending the flyhalf to within six points of Peter Hewat’s single season point-scoring record for NSW.
Foley was subbed soon after but the Waratahs weren’t done yet. Moments from full time, a deft short ball from Beale sent a charging Michael Hooper into space, before some skilful link play from Kane Douglas gave Wycliff Palu a well-deserved try in the corner. Beale missed a tricky conversion on the fulltime siren, leaving the score 39-8.
The team will be back in action next Sunday, July 6, against the Highlanders at Allianz Stadium.
NSW Waratahs 39 (tries: Robinson, Alofa 2, Foley, Palu; cons: Foley 4; pens: Foley, Beale) def Brumbies 8 (tries: Mogg; pens: Lealiifano)
Yellow cards: Fotu Auelua (60th min)