The Waratahs snapped the Crusaders’ 19-game winning streak with a hard-fought 20-12 victory in Sydney on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The defending champions, playing for the first time since the Christchurch terror attacks, were far from their best, making a plethora of handling errors.
Hot and humid conditions made it very tricky to play free-flowing rugby, but the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch held up better than it did when the Tahs beat the Reds last weekend.
Despite this, both teams tried to keep ball in hand and go through the phases, and had moments of impressive attacking play in between long phases of admittedly stale rugby.
The home side started on a high, winning a scrum inside the Crusaders 22 after which lock Jed Holloway bust through the defence for the opening try.
Soon after, Israel Folau did what he does best, claiming an up-and-under before offloading to Cam Clark, who had enough speed to sprint away and score.
#SuperRugby – HALFTIME:
Waratahs 15-7 Crusaders
It’s been a strong performance from the hosts so far and they lead the defending champions in slippery conditions.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 23, 2019
The Crusaders were unusually sloppy in the opening quarter and struggled to make anything of the little possession and territory they had. They were almost punished a third time after an error from an attacking maul allowed the Waratahs to turn defence into attack and break upfield, with Bernard Foley knocking the ball in the process of trying to ground it over the tryline.
However, the Crusaders responded when George Bridge ran a perfect line on to a pop pass from Bryn Hall and sliced through to score.
Foley then slotted a penalty to extend the Waratahs’ lead to eight points at the break.
The rain started to pour down in the second half, making for a very stop-start affair and the downpour did not help the pitch, which began to tear up under pressure from the scrums.
The Waratahs did well to keep the Crusaders pinned in their own half and put plenty of pressure on their opponents through the lineout and a strong defensive line.
The Crusaders rang the changes early in the second half and replacement flyhalf Mitchell Hunt missed an opportunity to close the deficit with a penalty.
The Waratahs then went on the offensive and spent a long period in Crusaders’ territory. They eventually managed a score with 10 minutes to go when Foley hoisted another up-and-under near the tryline. Folau and Alex Newsome caused enough of a nuisance to allow the Waratahs fullback to ground the ball.
There was a late consolation try for the Crusaders as Bridge broke from inside his own 22 before passing to Will Jordan, who sprinted clear and slid in. But Mitchell Hunt’s missed touchline conversion meant the Crusaders would leave Sydney with nothing to show for their efforts.
Waratahs – Tries: Jed Holloway, Cam Clark, Israel Folau. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalty: Foley.
Crusaders – Tries: George Bridge, Will Jordan. Conversion: Brett Cameron.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 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 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Karmichael Hunt.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 George Bridge, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Bryn Hall,, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Harry Allan.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Ere Enari, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan.
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images