NSW captain Benn Robinson said his side’s thrilling come-from-behind 34-30 victory over the Sharks on Saturday proved the Waratahs are still alive and kicking this Super Rugby season.
With their backs to the wall after an embarrassing loss to the Western Force last week, the Waratahs avoided their worst-ever start to a Super campaign thanks to a late surge that resulted in winger Tom Kingston scoring with five minutes remaining in front of 18,830 appreciative fans at Allianz Stadium.
A fired-up Tom Carter forced his way over in the 58th minute, to go with an earlier try to Bernard Foley, giving the Waratahs the lead for the first time in the match.
But again the Waratahs were left staring down the barrel of a heartbreaking defeat when Sharks No.10 Patrick Lambie booted his side ahead 30-27 with penalties in the 63rd and 71st minutes.
However, this time the Waratahs found something extra. And a destructive run from lock Dean Mumm, where he spectacularly fended off a couple of would-be defenders, laid the foundation for Kingston’s clincher.
Robinson, in his first-ever match as a captain said the Waratahs showed the fighting qualities that can reinvigorate their chances in the Australian Conference.
“I think history has shown with this side that when the chips are down we really do stand up and we get together and we play for each other,” Robinson said.
“I mentioned it to the boys before the game, we want to go out there and stand by each other and play for each other and 1-22 all players stood up tonight and made a real impact and that’s what we want.
“I got the boys together with about three minutes on the clock left and I said ‘let’s give it all we can.’”
Unlike last week’s disjointed effort against the Force, the Waratahs backed themselves with the ball in the rare Saturday sunshine, and scored four tries to claim a bonus point in their second win for the year.
Halfback Brendan McKibbin was outstanding in his first-ever match in the run-on side – scoring a smart first-half try and kicking five goals from as many attempts.
McKibbin will be hard to drop for next week’s clash in Hamilton against the Chiefs, even with star South African recruit Sarel Pretorius coming from the bench to contribute strongly in the dying minutes.
Coach Michael Foley finally has what he wanted – selection headaches and a team which showed they can play for 80 minutes.
“I thought he (McKibbin) was ever present … I thought some of his decision making was superb, he really played off the back of momentum and then created it at times himself,” said Foley.
“It’s been a tough week but the credit tonight for that result has to go 100 per cent to the players.
“At the end of last weekend everybody was extremely disappointed in the change room, and there was a lot of pressure on the team particularly on the players to perform today.
“There was even pressure within that game that could have easily pulled us apart … but we stayed to what we said we were going to do and I think that’s a massive wrap for them.”