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Folau stars for Waratahs in loss

Date

David Long

Israel Folau is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try.

Israel Folau is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try. Photo: SNPA / Malcolm Pullman

WHANGAREI: Israel Folau continued his progression into a top rugby player on Saturday by scoring a try and throwing the decisive pass to set up another in the Waratahs' 36-40 loss to the Blues.

The Waratahs looked set for a win - thanks to a hat-trick from Tom Kingston as well as tries to Cam Crawford, Jed Holloway and Folau - but Blues No.8 Peter Saili grabbed his second try with the game's last play to steal victory.

But for the 5000-strong crowd at Toll Stadium there was as much interest in seeing how Folau went as there was in watching the Blues. They had to wait until the start of the second half to see his introduction.

The first impact he had was to send through the decisive pass to Kingston for his first try. He then showed his finishing skills by dancing through some, admittedly poor, defending to complete a 50-metre Waratahs attack.

Folau was off limits to the media after the game, but Waratahs coach Michael Cheika felt he had built on his performance last weekend when he scored two tries against the Rebels.

''He is learning about where he needs to do things, when he needs to kick and when he doesn't,'' Cheika said. ''He will get better with all of those things as he gets more experiences in games. He is going to make a few mistakes around that kind of stuff, but what he gives us with ball in hand and the attack he can give us on that is good value. It is a bit at a time with him.''

Blues coach John Kirwan, a former back with the All Blacks, said he was impressed with the former NRL and AFL star.

''He was good and he put us under all sorts of trouble,'' Kirwan said.

''He is going to be a hard man to stop and it's good that we saw him pre-season. You can't give him any space and you've got to tackle him pretty hard.''

Kirwan said Folau reminded him of another code-switching star who played one of his first rugby games in Whangarei, when he was with Canterbury. ''He is like Sonny Bill Williams, he will need time to adjust to some of the finer points, but if they get the ball into his hands he's hard to stop,'' Kirwan said.

With the Waratahs' final pre-season game against the Crusaders on Thursday, time is running out for players to put their hands up for selection, but several did on Saturday and 21-year-old Kingston was one of them.

In all his tries there was still work to be done once he received the ball and he looked composed and decisive on his way to the try line.

''A few blokes played well today,'' Cheika said. ''Kingston played well, Folau had another good game and got a lot of touches.

''Everyone went OK, I have been training them really hard so there is bound to be a bit of flow on into these games and there are some big travel days. Considering what we've put into them, I was pretty happy with the condition they came out on to the field in.

''What I don't like is losing, we should have won. But this was a good sign and we've still got seven or eight international players back home.''

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