Waratahs reclaim finals berth with bonus-point win
May 18, 2014
Israel Folau was a constant thorn in the Lions' defence
© Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs ultimately secured an impressive bonus-point victory against the Lions at Allianz Stadium, running over and away from their plucky rivals in the second half after handling errors and ill-discipline had cost them dearly in the first stanza.
The Waratahs led by just four points at the interval despite dominating possession and territory, cruelling their advantage with a succession of penalties, but they killed the game with two tries immediately after the break. They were also more disciplined in the second period while the Lions made more errors and missed more tackles, but the hosts crossed again, through Rob Horne, only after the siren after their own errors had cost them at least two more scores.
The Waratahs overran their opponents in the second half (video available only in Australia)
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis was "pleased with the result", acknowledging that "we knew the Lions are strong finishers - they've proved that the last couple of weeks - and it was crucial that we started well in that second half. I thought our outside backs played very well".
Lions captain Warren Whitely lamented: "Seems like we can't play 80 minutes. The previous week, it was the second 40 minutes we played well; this week, the first half we were in it but great performance from the Waratahs, especially in the second half."
Bernard Foley reminded Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie of his worth © Getty Images
Bernard Foley, who scored 21 points, said "we knew if we could just stick to our structures and at our guns it was going to open up".
"We took the foot off the gas just a little bit towards the end, which is a bit disappointing, but it was very enjoyable tonight."
Foley's performance - he played a key role in four of the Tahs' five tries, and kicked seven goals from as many attempts - will have pleased Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie after the news that his incumbent fly-half, Quade Cooper, will miss the June 7 Test against France in Brisbane after sustaining a serious shoulder injury on Saturday night. McKenzie has a plethora of options at his disposal, but Foley's performance delivered a timely reminder of his all-round capabilities.
The 24-year-old former Australia Sevens star opened the scoring with a solo try and provided the second before half-time for midfield partner-in-crime Kurtley Beale with a skilful left-foot grubber kick into the Lions' in-goal area. He then handled twice in the move that delivered the Waratahs' match-sealing third five-pointer after the break, to Horne, and he put the icing on the cake with a sideline conversion after the full-time siren following another key touch for Horne's second five-pointer. All up, Foley slotted five conversions and two penalty goals in a flawless display of goalkicking.
Centre Adam Ashley-Cooper also crossed after reeling in Beale's chip over the top as the Waratahs remained unbeaten at home in 2014 to close to within one competition point of Australian Conference leaders the Brumbies.
Kurtley Beale produced a strong performance at inside centre © Getty Images
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