The Waratahs came from behind to end the Rebels’ winning streak with a dominant 51-27 victory at a sweltering Allianz Park in Sydney on Sunday.
The result has ended the Rebels’ longest winning streak of three matches and means the Waratahs have bounced back from their defeat to the Jaguares last weekend in emphatic fashion.
With temperatures between the mid to high 30s, the players were allowed to have a water break every 20 minutes. The dry outfield was ideal for running rugby and the players did not disappoint in that regard.
The Rebels conceded too many turnovers in an abject second half in which they conceded 34 points, only scoring seven. Also, they struggled to deal with Bernard Foley’s up and unders and Israel Folau’s aerial prowess.
The first try came after just five minutes. With the Rebels stringing together the phases and bearing down on the Waratahs’ try-line, Rebels fly-half Jack Debreczeni played a nice short pass as Jack Maddocks hit the gap, but the ball spilled out of his hands in contact where ‘Tahs winger Folau was on hand to gather. However, the Wallaby full-back’s pass caught Kurtley Beale unaware. Beale spilled it and Tom English gleefuly accepted the gift, giving the Rebels an early 5-0 lead after five minutes.
Ten minutes later, Foley cut the deficit to two with a penalty after Rebels scrum-half Will Genia was penalised at the breakdown.
Reece Hodge restored the Rebels’ lead with a long-range penalty after Waratahs lock Ned Hanigan was guilty of illegally entering their maul in the 23rd minute.
Soon after, Amanaki Mafi scored a 60 metre-runaway try after Lopeti Timani did well to tackle Bryce Hegarty, get over the ball and effect the turnover. From there, Maddocks made the line break before finding Mafi with the pop pass, the number eight showing tremendous pace to outsprint the Waratahs backline all the way over the whitewash.
Hodge’s conversion gave the Rebels a 15-3 lead with just over ten minutes of the first-half remaining.
Despite the Waratahs enjoying sustained periods of dominance, including a ten-minute spell at the end of the first half, they were denied by some heroic last-ditch Rebels defending.
The Rebels then went up the other side of the field and as opposed to the Waratahs, only needed one chance to score. Debreczeni was heavily involved again, his offload as he was falling to the ground finding Billy Meakes who broke and ran 30 metres before playing the final pass for Maddocks, who had the easy run-in to the line, grabbing his fifth try in four games for a 22-3 lead.
However, the ‘Tahs would eventually get the try they deserved before the interval. Foley’s attempted grubber kick bounced back off the shins of a Rebels defender and was well collected by Beale who broke the line, before the ball went through the hands as Foley played the final pass for Lalakai Foketi to dot down.
Two minutes after the interval, the Waratahs cut the deficit to three. Foley’s up and under was well collected by Folau, who won the aerial battle with Maddocks. Hegarty broke the line before his pop pass found Foley, who laid it on to Damian Fitzpatrick, the hooker showing the sleight of hand of a backline player to release Rob Simmons for the try.
And the comeback was complete just six minutes later. Folau made the tackle on Hodge, before Michael Hooper and Fitzpatrick effected the turnover. Foley set Curtis Rona away on a mini-break, the winger showing good vision to release scrum-half Mitchell Short on his way over the try-line. Foley added the extras for a 24-20 lead.
The Wallaby fly-half added a penalty soon afterwards to make it a seven-point ball game. By now, the floodgates had opened and Hegarty got himself on the scoresheet at the end of another slick backline move. Foley got on the outside of Marika Koroibete and Beale bent Hodge, which created the overlap for Hegarty to dot down in the corner.
The Rebels were not yet dead and buried and delivered a riposte in the 62nd minute. Having worked their way up to the ‘Tahs ten-metre line, Meakes got the offload away for Matt Philip who crashed over from close range.
But it was well and truly over when Foley stretched the lead to 20 points with two further penalties, the first for a late hit and the second for not releasing.
And the icing was on the cake when Taqele Naiyaravoro scored a magnificent individual try, capping off a brilliant cameo performance off the bench, doing brilliantly to keep himself in the field of play fending off three players out on the left touchline, before dotting down for his brace. Foley’s conversion saw the Waratahs run out comprehensive 51-27 winners.
Tries: Foketi, Simmons, Hegarty, Short, Naiyaravoro 2
Cons: Foley 6
Pens: Foley 3
Tries: English, Maddocks, Mafi, Philip
Cons: Hodge 2
Waratahs: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Mitchell Short, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Michael Wells, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Alex Newsome, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Ross Haylett-Petty, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Colby Fainga’a, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Sefa Naivalu
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)