The Waratahs snapped Australia’s 40-match losing streak against New Zealand franchises with a 41-12 win against the Highlanders in Sydney. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Waratahs blew a golden opportunity to end the Aussies’ horror run when they relinquished a 29-0 lead in Christchurch last weekend but were good enough to get the job done on Saturday against a team forced to play with 14 men for 51 minutes and 13 for 10.
It was Australia’s first Super Rugby triumph over Kiwi opposition since the Waratahs’ 45-25 win against the Chiefs in Sydney on 27 May 2016 – 722 days ago.
The bonus-point win takes the Tahs six points clear of the Rebels at the top of the Australian conference, while the Highlanders lose ground on the Crusaders and Hurricanes – who both won this weekend – in the New Zealand conference.
Bernard Foley opened the scoring for the hosts with a penalty goal, before the visitors had an Aaron Smith try disallowed when the TMO correctly ruled that there had been a forward pass in the build-up.
It was the Tahs who got the first try of the match, when some good interplay between forwards and backs created space on the left for Taqele Naiyaravoro, who broke through Lima Sopoaga’s tackle to score in the corner.
The match-defining moment came in the 19th minute, when the officials ruled that Tevita Nabura had intentionally stuck a boot into Cam Clark’s face while going up to catch a high ball. The left wing was red-carded as a result.
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) May 19, 2018
Soon after, the Highlanders were reduced to 13 men when Aaron Smith was shown yellow for a deliberate knock-down. The Tahs made their two-man advantage count with Naiyaravoro grabbing his second and Foley slotting the conversion to make it 15-0, which is how it remained at the break.
Israel Folau scored the Tahs’ third try early in the second half, before the Highlanders finally got on the board when Ben Smith’s cross-kick found Elliot Dixon on the left wing.
A great offload in the tackle by Sekope Kepu led to Folau’s second try – and 50th in Super Rugby – in the 55th minute.
To their credit, the Highlanders again hit back when Ash Dixon went over from a lineout driving maul, but tries from Lalakai Foketi and Curtis Rona capped off a convincing win for the Waratahs.
Waratahs – Tries: Taqele Naiyaravoro (2), Israel Folau (2), Lalakai Foketi, Curtis Rona. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4). Penalty: Foley.
Highlanders – Tries: Elliot Dixon, Ash Dixon. Conversion: Lima Sopoaga.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Tevita Nabura, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Tevita Li.