Weary Tahs do enough to double up
WARATAHS 30 REBELS 21
Quick start ... the Waratahs celebrate after Bernard Foley scores in the first 40 seconds. Photo: Anthony Johnson
THE Waratahs survived a determined Rebels fightback to make it two wins on the trot in Sydney last night and retain the Weary Dunlop Shield. The 30-21 victory gives the side much-needed momentum heading into their clash next week with the Crusaders, who obliterated the Hurricanes in the earlier match.
But injury worries - fullback Bernard Foley will have scans on his shoulder after a tackle on Lachie Mitchell - and a suspension concern for centre Rob Horne could cast a shadow over preparations.
The Rebels try to hold back a Waratahs attack. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Horne will be scrutinised by the judiciary after a lifting tackle on former Waratah Kurtley Beale. The pair talked in the aftermath but the peace-making failed to save Horne from time in the sin-bin and is unlikely to help at a judiciary level.
Just a few minutes earlier the characteristically low-profile centre profited from a patient period of phase play to slip past Beale for a try in the 57th minute.
Coach Michael Foley said he believed Horne might have tried to pull off the tackle at the last minute. ''I'd have to watch it back on replay, obviously Rob's a fairly committed defender,'' Foley said. ''I did sort of pick up the fact that he probably pulled out of it, he didn't finish it off.''
Collision ... James O'Connor comes off worse after Berrick Barnes crashes into him. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The home side stamped their authority all over the southerners early in the game but again allowed their opponents back into the contest. From a Foley try in the opening 30 seconds to another two from Tatafu Polota-Nau and Horne as part of 14 unanswered points in the third quarter, the home side was 13 points in front in the 57th minute. Tries to Rebels replacement Tim Davidson and winger Mitchell then put the visitors back in the game.
The Rebels narrowed the deficit to nine points but the Waratahs held off the resurgence for a second week running to string together their first consecutive wins of the season.
''I thought there was good balance to our game,'' coach Foley said. ''A lot of good ball movement early and … there was some excellent support, particularly from depth, and there was some good forward play.
''There were things we could have controlled in the second half a little bit better but at the same time we kept playing and I thought that was a big plus out of the game.''
An improved Melbourne outfit managed to kill off one curse, scoring their first ever regular try against the Waratahs and following up with a second and then a third in the second half. Winger Mark Gerrard played a superb kicking game for his side and forwards Ged Robinson and Davidson secured five points each.
Beale's homecoming didn't look like firing up until the third quarter, when he set up Mitchell's try and converted to make it 30-14. But even the attacking brilliance of last year's John Eales medallist wasn't enough in the face of the Waratahs' staunch defence.
Halfback Brendan McKibbin's boot again gave the home side an all-important buffer on the scoreboard. McKibbin put in another commendable performance and appears to enjoy directing his forwards around the park more and more.
The Waratahs couldn't put on a bonus-point try but will be happy enough for the win and an eight-day preparation for the Crusaders, who look to be in electrifying form.
The Waratahs forwards were excellent yet again while the shallow, lateral kick-off that failed to work for Berrick Barnes against the Chiefs in Hamilton three rounds ago finally worked tonight and paid off within seconds. Wycliff Palu took the ball over the Rebels' 22m line for halfback McKibbin and Barnes to set up their fullback's stunning try.
Meanwhile, a superb first-half display from the Crusaders set up an impressive 42-14 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington last night. The result lifted the Christchurch-based franchise into the top six of the competition at the expense of the Hurricanes, who dropped out of the finals spot.
NSW WARATAHS 30 (Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Tatafu Polota-Nau tries Brendan McKibbin 3 cons 3 pens) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 21 (Tim Davidson, Lachlan Mitchell, Ged Robinson tries Kurtley Beale, Julian Huxley, James O’Connor cons) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Crowd: 17,673.