Bernard Foley contributed 18 points as the Waratahs came from 20-7 down to defeat the Rebels 23-20 in Sydney on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Waratahs came into this game looking to put a turbulent two-week period behind them in the wake of the Israel Folau fallout and to prove they can perform without the talismanic fullback. The Rebels, meanwhile, were out to end a four-game losing streak against their hosts and bounce back from their shock defeat to the Stormers last week.
Ultimately, it was the Waratahs who succeeded, thanks to an inspired performance from Foley. The win moves them up to second on the log in the Australian conference, two points behind the Rebels.
This was a scrappy, error-laden contest with few glimpses of individual excellence.
The Rebels were dealt an early blow when they lost the joint top try-scorer in the competition, Jack Maddocks, to a head injury, but they adjusted well after the setback.
The Waratahs turned down two shots at goal and paid the price as Foley failed to find touch twice. The Rebels didn’t have much possession in the first 10 minutes, but took the lead when Quade Cooper knocked over a penalty.
The hosts eventually got on the board when a no-look inside pass from Jed Holloway put veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper away in space. But it was all Rebels after that as they scored 13 unanswered points to take a handy 20-7 lead into the break.
There was a total turnaround in fortunes in the second half. The disintegration of the Rebels’ defence kept the Waratahs in the game, allowing captain Michael Hooper’s side to chip away at the deficit. Foley scored 16 straight points via three penalties and a self-converted try that originated from a risky pass by the Rebels in midfield.
The Rebels looked to fight back, but a yellow card to prop Sam Talakai didn’t help their cause. Reece Hodge had an opportunity to draw them level in the 70th minute, but his long-range effort bounced back off the upright.
Waratahs – Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Bernard Foley. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalties: Foley (3).
Rebels – Tries: Billy Meakes, Reece Hodge. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalty: Cooper.
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Subs: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Miller, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Curtis Rona.
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English (c), 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Sione Tuipulotu.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images