Waratahs hero Bernard Foley says he’ll cherish memories of his after-the-siren penalty goal for the rest of his life after booting NSW to a priceless Super Rugby triumph over the Blues on Sunday.
Foley only assumed the goalkicking duties after first-choice Brendan McKibbin was forced off with a shoulder injury in the first half.
But the ice-cool 27-year-old ended up nailing the pressure clincher from 35 metres out to give the Waratahs a thrilling 30-27 comeback victory, their second win of the season just their second from 14 matches stretching back to last year.
“I didn’t watch the last kick. I stayed in the tunnel. I didn’t want to see it,” said hugely relieved NSW coach Michael Cheika.
Foley was named man of the match even before slotting the winner after leading the revival from 14 points down with a try and three goals from as many attempts.
But he thought he’d blown it when he missed a drop goal attempt trying to break the deadlock with two minutes remaining.
“I was sort of a bit lucky that I got a second bite of the cherry after missing that drop goal and I was pretty fortunate to line it up and hit it like I have at training,” Foley said.
“That’s why you practise. It’s why you kick goals, to get the chance win it for your side.
“I wish we didn’t have to kick them at the end. It would be good if we’d wrapped it up long before that, but getting the opportunity there to win it for the side is special and you remember those for the rest of your life.”
The Waratahs trailed 24-10 at the break, their biggest halftime deficit at home since 2007, but fought back to extend the Blues’ barren run in Sydney to a decade.
Blues coach John Kirwan hailed the Waratahs’ resilience.
“They’ve been criticised all week and I think they came out and showed courage and character,” Kirwan said.
“They scored the tries when they needed to and put us under enough pressure that we made those errors.
“They’ve got to be happy after a big pressure week. They did some good things with the ball and their tournament’s back on track.”
The victory in front of 16,429 faithful fans on a sapping Sunday afternoon revived NSW’s 2013 campaign after three worrying defeats.
The match wasn’t without controversy, though, with the Waratahs expressing their frustration at having to take a 30-second drinks break after 22 minutes as the temperature hit 30 degrees.
The time-out occurred immediately after McKibbin had levelled the scores up at 10-all and the Blues scored two soft tries upon the resumption to claim their 24-10 halftime buffer.
“We didn’t want the game to stop. We’ve trained hard and we want to test ourselves,” Cheika said.
“I wasn’t real happy about it. They asked us before the game and we said we’re not into it. Like, it’s not that hot really.”
McKibbin was hurt in a thunderous tackle from rugged Blues centre Rene Ranger and Cheika said it was too early to know if he’d be fit to tackle the Western Force next Sunday in Sydney.