UPDATED: Bernard Foley couldn’t pull off the Iceman routine again to claim a last-gasp victory for the Waratahs but he says the miss won’t stop him backing himself to nail match-winners.
After the Hurricanes scored a try to take the lead with just four minutes left at Brookvale Oval, Foley had a shot at goal with a minute left to snatch a dramatic win for NSW in their Super Rugby season opener.
Much to the disappointment of a sold-out 17,111 crowd, Foley pulled the kick slightly and the Hurricanes scraped home to win by a solitary point.
It was a second gut-wrenching defeat at Brookvale Oval after the Tahs’ 24-21 loss to the Blues last year, and the team will be left to rue the loss of a very winnable game.
The major culprits for the loss were NSW’s ill-discipline and overall coating of rust, that saw penalties and basic errors from some of the team with enough Test caps to know better.
But as he has done before, Foley was the man who could have pulled the team out of the fire when a rookie front row won an unlikely penalty with just 64 seconds on the clock.
He’d kicked five from five in the game until that point and had earlier passed Matt Burke's record for the most points by a Waratah in Super Rugby.
But Foley, who volunteered to attend the media conference post-game, admitted he was gutted he’d missed.
“It’s disappointing, to reward the front row at the end there, they did a great job to win that penalty, so it would have been great to reward them,” Foley said.
"It was a sell-out here at Brookie and seeing everyone get behind us. It would have been nice to get the win for them but it wasn’t to be.”
Foley, who famously kicked the Waratahs a 2014 Super Rugby title, said he wouldn’t lose confidence from the miss.
“It’s process-driven, I’m not driven by outcomes, same with my kicking, I’ll just go back to it, just keep trying to stick at it, keep trying to get consistent and better at it and given that shot again, back myself,” Foley said.
While both saw some positives, both the Waratahs and Hurricanes were mostly unimpressed with their performances in the round one clash.
Referee Angus Gardner was one of the busiest men on the field as both teams pushed the boundaries throughout. The Waratahs were the worst sinners with 14 penalties conceded but the Canes weren’t far off with 12.
Though the Canes scored a close-range try though Ardie Savea, four goals from Foley saw the Tahs take a 12-10 lead into halftime.
NSW were keen to use pace and width and Curtis Rona scored a great try on one attacking turnover, after a nice tap-on pass from Jed Holloway and a classy draw-and-pass from Israel Folau.
The Tahs defence was strong for most of the night but their mistake rate, and ill-discipline, allowed the Canes to escape their end and camp in NSW’s half for much of the last half-hour.
The Waratahs’ rookie front rowers had given up the penalty leading to that lineout and maul, but they won their team a shot at victory moments later. Foley’s kick was wide and even after attacking for almost three minutes after the siren, the Waratahs blew another chance by losing a lineout with a bad lift and throw.
"It’s never a great feeling to lose a close game. I thought for large parts we controlled it well, right up until the Canes went ahead,” Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said.
"It was a pretty scrappy affair for both sides, with numerous mistakes, lots of turnovers, it looked like two teams working themselves back into the season.
"We weren’t able to get momentum, either side, we were in that grind where both teams competed hard.
"We had a shot to win it and it’s disappointing we didn’t win.”
Hurricanes skipper TJ Perenara admitted he’d been praying for Foley’s kick to miss.
"I was behind the sticks and he didn’t miss by much. Me and Jordie were both there saying “please pull it bro, please pull it” and lucky enough it did,” he said.
"That’s not a position you want to be in late in the game, behind the sticks hoping a goalkicker like Bernard Foley misses a shot.”
Gibson said a lack of sustained possession killed his team’s chances.
He was encouraged, though, by the strong performance of Karmichael Hunt and the fight of his team to stay right in the contest to the final siren - and beyond.
"The positives for me is this season we are asking for more fight from this team and we saw that tonight,” he said.
Pens: Foley 4
Tries: Savea, Kirifi
Cons: Barrett 2
Pens: Barrett 2