MELBOURNE REBELS 19 NSW WARATAHS 35
Waratahs smash Rebels
Gareth Delve of the Rebels runs with the ball. Photo: Getty Images
THIS IS as close as it gets to redemption for Waratahs centre Tom Carter. The first two tries in his team's bonus point win over the Rebels all but erased his sins from round one, when the 29-year-old's blinkered enthusiasm helped set up the Queensland Reds' match-winning try after the bell.
Carter said as much last night, acknowledging his errant call for Brendan McKibbin to kick downfield with less than two minutes to go in the match had plagued him all week.
''I said all week it's the highs and lows of football and it's been a pretty tough week so upon reflection I think [I'm] really happy for my team,'' he said outside the dressing room.
''I feel really passionate about playing football for the Waratahs, it's a very special team and they really supported me all week, with my family, and I guess you can talk all you want but at the end of the day it's probably your actions that define you so … hopefully I can back this up next week.''
Carter was at the centre of much of the on-field niggle during the game, alleging he was eye gouged by Rebels second rower Adam Byrnes and at one stage being pushed from opponent to opponent in a display resembling schoolyard bullying.
He avoided commenting on the alleged gouge, which was referred to the citing commissioner, but said some of the heat also related to his performance against the Reds.
''I think probably with the week that I had that was probably going to come out there but as I said it's best I just leave that on the field,'' Carter said.
Carter's tries were just the beginning of an attacking blitz on the Rebels, who struggled to gain any momentum in attack and were confined to 19 points to the Waratahs 35.
Their only five-pointer - the team's first ever against the Waratahs in three games - was a penalty try in the 64th minute. They scored through a maul that formed off a Rebels lineout six metres from the Waratahs' line.
NSW hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was sin-binned for deliberately collapsing the same formation in what appeared to be a controversial call from referee Bryce Lawrence. James O'Connor converted to take the Rebels to within 14 points of their rivals but they had no more success.
Stand-in fullback Mark Gerrard summed up the province's troubles at half-time, saying: ''We gave away six penalties in our own 50 [metres], we're doing the simple things wrong … we've just got to switch on upstairs.''
They couldn't regather during the break. NSW scored within the first four minutes of the second half, benefiting from former Australian Sevens captain Bernard Foley's attacking prowess when he took a pass from Carter to score next to the post. Daniel Halangahu's conversion extended the Waratahs' lead to 23 points before the Rebels' penalty try reined it in.
Coach Michael Foley's decision to name Foley at fullback, moving utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper to the wing, was emphatically endorsed. The pair partnered seamlessly with Tom Kingston on the right wing to make a succession of exciting breaks during the first half and in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Waratahs front rower Sekope Kepu also scored for the Waratahs, running over just before half-time.
The visitors' plan to nullify the attacking powers of O'Connor, fullback Mark Gerrard and five eighth Danny Cipriani was successful.
NSW WARATAHS 35 (Tom Carter 2, Bernard Foley, Sekope Kepu tries Daniel Halangahu 3 cons Halangahu 2, Foley pens) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 19 (1 penalty try) (James O’Connor con 4 pens) at AAMI Park. Referee: Bryce Lawrence. Crowd: 16,491.