Waratahs end nine-year losing streak
April 19, 2014
Folau crashed over the whitewash within the opening minute
© Getty Images
Try-scoring king Israel Folau has made a royal return to Super Rugby to lead the NSW Waratahs to a bruising 19-12 win over the Bulls in Sydney. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were on hand at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night as the Waratahs' crown jewel crossed for his ninth try of the season less than 30 seconds into his long-awaited comeback match.
Furious about the Australian Rugby Union's decision to rule him out of last week's loss to the Western Force amid fears the Wallabies fullback could stop breathing if he copped another blow to the throat, Folau made an immediate statement. Showing no signs of rust, Folau ran a perfect line to pick up an inside ball from Adam Ashley-Cooper to cross under the posts after just 28 seconds.
Folau's early strike proved decisive: the only try of the night helped the Waratahs to their first win over the Bulls in nine years. The much-needed win, after two losses in their previous three starts, lifted the Waratahs above Australian conference rivals the Western Force into fourth place on the ladder.
NSW coach Michael Cheika will hope the victory doesn't come at great cost, after midfield playmaker Kurtley Beale - who initiated Folau's try - hobbled off just before half-time with a calf strain.
While Folau and Beale dazzled in a revitalised backline, man of the match Michael Hooper and fellow flanker Jacques Potgieter led the Waratahs pack in a tough forward battle with the hard-nosed South Africans.
Former Bull Potgieter played like a man possessed, launching his huge frame into ruck after ruck and pulling off a series of heavy tackles that inspired his team-mates. Potgieter was afforded a standing ovation when Cheika rewarded him with an early shower 11 minutes from fulltime after two second-half penalties from five-eighth Bernard Foley all but sealed victory for NSW.
Foley also slotted two penalties and a conversion in the first half for a 14-point haul with the boot. Foley's opposite number, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, scored all the Bulls' points through four penalties of his own, but it wasn't enough to save the visitors from their sixth straight defeat on the road.
The Bulls' Flip van der Merwe has been cited for alleged strike on the Waratahs' Paddy Ryan.