Bernard Foley scored 16 points as the Waratahs comfortably overcame the Cheetahs 21-6 in Sydney on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Cheetahs came into the match having only managed a solitary won in their last seven matches away from home against Australian opposition, and their struggles Down Under continued as they succumbed to an eighth loss of the season.
The Bloemfontein-based side had made six changes to their pack ahead of this clash, and whether or not the forwards would be able to hold their own against the Waratahs’ Wallabies-laden pack was always going to be a key factor. Unfortunately for the Cheetahs, their all-new front row struggled at scrum time, with the Tahs winning four penalties at this set piece in the first half.
One of them enabled Foley to knock over a simple penalty early on, while the others allowed the Waratahs to relieve pressure and attain field possession. As illustrated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, the Cheetahs have had the worst scrum success in the competition (70%) in contrast to the Waratahs’ 89% success.
It was while playing under a scrum penalty advantage that the Waratahs scored their first try through wing Reece Robinson, while a solid scrum also laid the platform in the red zone for Foley to score an important try just before the break.
With the Waratahs enjoying a surfeit of possession in the opening half (67%), and the Cheetahs making basic errors when they had the ball (eight handling errors and 10 turnovers conceded), it enabled the hosts to open up a handy 18-6 lead at half-time.
The visitors would have also been left to lament a real missed opportunity when Tian Meyer chipped, collected and looked sure to score on the quarter-hour mark, but a superb try-saving tackle from fullback Andrew Kellaway bundled the Cheetahs scrumhalf into touch.
Yet another scrum penalty enabled Foley to slot a three-pointer just after the break, and although the Cheetahs finally won a penalty of their own at this set piece moments later, they again coughed up possession after opting to kick to the corner.
The Cheetahs brought on all their front-row replacements and Bok lock Lood de Jager just over 10 minutes into the second half, and although their scrum did improve, the damage was already done.
The Waratahs looked to have secured a try-scoring bonus point when Israel Folau dotted down with the final play of the game, but a forward pass was spotted earlier in the movement.
Waratahs – Tries: Reece Robinson, Bernard Foley. Conversion: Foley. Penalties: Foley (3).
Cheetahs – Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2).
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Francois Venter (c), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Willie Britz, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegener, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Michael van der Spuy.
Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images