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By Waratahs Rugby Media Unit
NSW Waratahs 41 – Lions 13
Asteron Life Super Rugby round 14
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
A brace of tries to winger Rob Horne and 21 points from Man of the Match Bernard Foley have propelled the NSW Waratahs to a vital 41-13 bonus point victory at Allianz Stadium.
In front of almost 20,000 - their biggest home crowd of the season - the Waratahs ran in five tries, and held the Lions scoreless in the second half, to maintain their perfect winning record at home this season.
Head Coach Michael Cheika commended his side’s composure, as they slugged through a tough first half to draw clear in an exciting 20 minute burst in the second period.
“In the first half we had a lot of ball, and we put on a lot of play, but we weren’t really clear on the scoreboard - and that can sometimes unnerve teams. But I thought the team did well to maintain its shape and the way we wanted to attack and defend. We managed that over the 80 minutes and got a satisfying result,” Cheika said.
The win elevates the Waratahs into fourth place on the ladder, with just one point separating them from the conference-leading Brumbies, but Cheika would not be drawn on his team’s post-season chances.
“What we need to do is think about the next game, not get carried away. As much as you might think ‘hey we might get in’ we might also miss out as well. We’ve just got to keep a level head and think about the next game. ”
Will Skelton set the tone for the home side from the opening whistle, as he crashed over the helpless Faf de Klerk on a barnstorming run into the Lions’ 22. Moments later, Kurtley Beale crossed the line but couldn’t muscle his way under a pile of frantic Lions defenders.
From the consequent scrum, flanker Michael Hooper attracted the attention of winger Deon Van Rensburg but couldn’t exploit the space his run created, with his offload drifting forward into the arms of an unmarked Horne.
Unfazed by a series of missed opportunities, the Tahs’ relentless attack continued to pepper the Lions’ line. The pressure exposed chinks in the visitors’ armour and Foley was able to swivel inside centre Lionel Mapoe and lunge over the tryline. The flyhalf converted his try and took the score to 7-0 after 10 minutes.
However the Lions were quick to counter, earning an offside penalty and driving the ball deep into the Tahs’ 22 for an attacking lineout. Their set piece finished the job, with a powerful maul driving flanker Jaco Kriel over for a five-pointer in the left hand corner. Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff slotted a sideline conversion and the visitors were back at level pegging on the 15-minute mark.
Strong running from Beale got the Tahs back onto the front foot and into the 22, with the pressure forcing a Lions ruck infringement. Foley made no mistake with his penalty attempt, but Boshoff replied minutes later to level the ledger again at 10-all midway through the half.
The end to end rugby continued, and from an attacking scrum Foley dropped a perfectly-weighted grubber kick into the in-goal area, with Beale scooping it up unopposed to score the Waratahs’ second try of the game. Foley’s second conversion from in front gave the Tahs breathing space at 17-10.
Boshoff added his second penalty but failed to convert another from beyond halfway, and the Tahs held a four point advantage at the break.
The Tahs emerged from the sheds with a renewed enthusiasm, with a nice interplay between Foley and Skelton sending Horne into space on the left hand side. The powerful winger brushed aside the tackle of fullback Chrysander Botha on his way to a deserved try.
The dangerous Israel Folau broke through down the left hand side from the kickoff, but Rob Horne was denied a second try in quick time when van Rensburg dragged the winger down five metres out. The Lions winger was rewarded for his heroics with a yellow card for intentionally slowing the Tahs’ ruck ball.
The winger’s absence left the Lions vulnerable at the back, and a neat chip kick from Kurtley Beale gave centre Adam Ashley-Cooper the bonus-point try. Foley’s conversion extended the lead to an imposing 31-13 on the 50 minute mark.
Horne’s pace and physicality continued to bamboozle the Lions’ outside backs and, if not for a desperate cover tackle from Lions captain Warren Whitley, the winger would have had his second try after a break midway through the second half.
The Tahs settled for a consolation Foley three-pointer, with an imposing Waratahs scrum effort demolishing the Lions’ forwards two minutes later.
The comfortable lead allowed Cheika to ring the changes, blooding two debutants in as many minutes – with hooker Hugh Roach replacing Tatafu Polota Nau and giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro on for Ashley-Cooper.
The injection of fresh legs proved valuable for the Tahs, with Folau offloading to gift Horne – voted player’s player after the match – a well-earned second try on the full-time siren. Foley’s successful conversion capped off a perfect night with the boot and gave the Tahs an impressive 41-13 final scoreline.
Cheika’s men now have a short five-day turnaround before travelling to Melbourne to face the Rebels on Friday.
You can follow all the away games LIVE on Fox Sports, or catch up on the action and all the match stats with our online match centre.
Alternatively, fans will be able to watch all the highlights from every game online on the NSW Waratahs’ YouTube channel, Tah TV.
NSW Waratahs 41 (tries: Foley, Beale, Horne 2; cons: Foley 5; pens: Foley 2) def Lions 13 (tries: Kriel; cons: Boshoff; pens: Boshoff)
NSW Waratahs: 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 2.Tatafu Polota Nau (Parramatta), 3. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 4.Will Skelton (Sydney University) 5.Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly), 8. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 9. Nick Phipps (Sydney University), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 11. Rob Horne (Southern Districts), 12. Kurtley Beale (Randwick), 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Matt Carraro (Randwick), 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University).
Replacements: 16. Hugh Roach (Eastwood), 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University), 18. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 19. Jacques Potgieter (Eastern Suburbs), 20. Stephen Hoiles (Randwick), 21. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 22. Taqele Naiyaravoro (Parramatta), Alofa Alofa (West Harbour).
Lions: 1. Schalk van der Merwe, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 4. Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 5. Martin Muller, 6. Jaco Kriel, 7. Derick Minnie, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 9. Faf de Klerk, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 11. JW Jonker, 12. Stefan Watermeyer, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 15. Chrysander Botha.
Replacements: 16. Armand van der Merwe, 17. Corné Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Rudi Mathee, 20. Warwick Tecklenburg, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Antony Volmink.
Referee: Nick Briant (NZL)
Half-time: NSW Waratahs 17 – 13 Lions
Yellow cards: van Rensberg (47th min)
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Northern Suburbs will be out to defend their 2016 premiership title while the Warringah Rats will be determined to secure their first victory since 2005 in Saturday’s Shute Shield Grand Final to be played at North Sydney Oval.