Another comeback falls short for Waratahs

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs will head to their second 2017 bye back at square one after a 40-33 loss to the Blues on Saturday night.

Down by 26 points at halftime, the Waratahs outscored the Blues 33-14 in the second 40 minutes, but another Jekyll and Hyde showing saw them fall short..

Superstar Blues brothers Rieko and Akira Ioane put the nails in the Waratahs’ coffin, the former with a double and the latter with the match-sealer, but the Waratahs had their own second-half stars, with an Israel Folau double and a super cameo from Will Skelton.

A surprise downpour unleashed from above as the game got underway, with the Blues opening their tally through Piers Francis in the third minute and things only went downhill from there for NSW.

It was a sign of things to come in the first half when Waratahs scrumhalf Jake Gordon lost his footing on the slippery turf just past halfway and Blues winger Rieko Ioane collected the offload and scored, palming off Ned Hanigan along the way.

With just a quarter of possession in the opening half, the Waratahs had few chances but even when they held the ball, their own decision-making hurt them, with overcooked kicks and loose carries hurting them.

Under-pressure fullback Israel Folau gave the Waratahs a strong start to the second half and breaking a six-game tryless streak for the usually reliable finisher.

Will Skelton made an impact in the second half. Photo: Getty ImagesSkelton's valueduring the break was seen immediately, with the mammoth lock making his presence felt in one of his best performances of the year, as the Waratahs looked to work their way back into the game.

In stark contrast to their win over the Reds, the Waratahs opted to go for the corner, turning down three penalty goal chances to go for the line.

Ironically, kicking was their ultimate method of destruction, with even coach Daryl Gibson lamenting after half-time that they were putting possession back in the Blues’ hands too easily, when speaking to FOX SPORTS.

Their options gave them little payoff, but Tolu Latu eventually found some joy for the Waratahs, with a 57th-minute try their second consecutive score.

Enter the Ioane brothers - first it was Rieko, punishing Paddy Ryan for an overeager cleanout, and then Akira joined the party with a runaway effort.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley found some consolation for the home side in the 69th minute, scoring and converting to narrow the margin to 21 points, before Folau had his second five minutes later giving them the slightest sniff of a chance.

Skelton fell just short of an 80th-minute try that would have given them a chance to draw, but lost control, before replacement prop Paddy Ryan managed what the second-rower couldn't, crossing in the 81st, with Foley's conversion confirming the bonus point.

After the game Waratahs captain Michael Hooper lamented another hot and cold effort.

"It was a disappointing first half. Yet again, we showed great fight but not enough," - Michael Hooper.

"It's a confidence thing. You're probably seeing in our results, we're just not letting it go straight away.

"When we've got nothing to lose, we throw it around. It's just frustrating we can't get that at the start of the game."

The Waratahs have a bye this week, before facing the Rebels in Sydney in a fortnight’s time.

RESULT

NSW Waratahs 33

Tries: Folau 2, Latu, Foley, Ryn

Cons: Foley 2

Blues 40

Tries: R. Ioane 2, Scrafton, A Ioane,

Cons: Francis 2

Pens: Francis 4

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