Tahs score 38 straight to stun Rebels

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Waratahs have scored 38 unanswered points to stun the Rebels into silence and set the Australian Conference alight with a scorching 51-27 win.

The mercury hit 38 degrees at Allianz Stadium and there was some red hot rugby played by both sides but this was a tale of two halves if there ever was one.

The Waratahs were lucky to go into the half time break trailing 20-10 after a stop-start first term which Melbourne largely controlled.

But the home side looked a completely different team in the second half.

Whatever coach Daryl Gibson said to his troops in the sheds worked, as they scored four tries in the next 20 minutes - including a try of the year contender - to stun the Rebels and put the result beyond doubt.

Israel Folau regularly soared above Rebels players. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyIsrael Folau towered over Rebels players every time a high ball was launched into the air and that was a tactic regularly employed by Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, who clicked in the second half.

Michael Hooper did Michael Hooper things all match, dominating the breakdown and running smart support lines, while the injection of Bryce Hegarty at fullback paid dividends with ball in hand.

The Rebels didn't have the same quality, clean ball in the first half and that frustrated them to some extent, though they did string enough phases together to take control of the match in the first 40 minutes.

They did have the Waratahs, largely, to thank for that, with a wayward Folau pass hitting Beale so hard it rebounded straight into the arms of Tom English in the 5th minute, the outside centre strolling over to score the first points of the match untouched.

A stop-start 20 minutes followed, Dane Haylett-Petty stretchered off after hitting his head on Folau's hip in an attempted tackle and both Reece Hodge and Foley slotting shots at goal.Billy Meakes and the Rebels had no answer for the Tahs. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyIt took until the 27th minute for Melbourne to strike again, a Lopeti Timani pilfer cutting the ball out of a Waratahs breakdown, Jack Debreczeni cleaning up the loose ball and offloading to Amanaki Mafi, who sprinted 50 metres to beat scrambling Tahs defenders to the line.

It was Debreczeni that sparked the try which put Melbourne up 20-3 with five to play in the first half, the flyhalf popping the ball off the floor to Billy Meakes, who drew the final Waratahs defenders and offloaded to Jack Maddocks, the Melbourne young gun brushing a Folau tackle on the line to score.

Lalakai Foketi scored an opportune try to keep NSW in the hunt at half time, his own grubber blocked by a Rebels foot but popping up to Beale, who split the line and passed back to his centre partner for the Waratahs' first five pointer of the afternoon.

When play resumed Folau immediately claimed a towering Beale high ball, some superb passing from the ensuing phases putting Rob Simmons under the posts, cutting the margin to just three points.

The Tahs stars shined prior to the try that then put them in front, Folau making a big tackle on Reece Hodge on the Rebels 22, Hooper burrowing his way into the same breakdown and prying a turnover free, the loose ball then finding Bernard Foley, who hit Curtis Rona on the chest.Curtis Rona starred for the Tahs. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyRona then split the line, drew two Rebels defenders and put Mitch Short over, Foley converting to give the Tahs their first lead at 24-20 with 30 to play.

Another Foley penalty followed and Bryce Hegarty crossed for a simple try five minutes later, Foley and Beale putting the ball through the hands to find the fullback unmarked on the left wing.

Taqele Naiyaravoro then scored a try of the year contender - a Beale cross field kick claimed by the 123kg winger, who popped the ball inside to Rona, a flick pass then finding Jed Holloway before Hegarty popped up, the final pass back to Naiyaravoro leaving the replacement winger a 35 metre run down the sideline for a superb try.

Having conceded 38 unanswered points the Rebels finally responded, Meakes squeezing an offload to Matt Philip to put the lock over with 17 to play.

But another Foley penalty with eight to play nullified the impact that try had before Naiyaravoro put the final nail in the Melbourne coffin when he crossed for a double in the final minute, brushing Hodge, Sefa Naivalu and Michael Ruru en route to the line.

It was an emphatic victory for NSW, who leapfrog ACT into third on the Australian Conference ladder.

RESULT

Waratahs 51

Tries: Foketi, Simmons, Short, Hegarty, Naiyaravoro 2

Cons: Foley 5

Pens: Foley 3

Rebels 27

Tries: English, Mafi, Maddocks, Philip

Cons: Hodge

Pens: Hodge 2