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"KB did a fantastic job out the back tonight"

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Expert
20th April, 2019
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2508 Reads

That was the quote from veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper after the Waratahs had come from behind to beat the Rebels 23-20 at the SCG last night.

And he was spot on.

For the first time in yonks, Kurtley Beale played like the Kurtley Beale of old.

He started with a heavy tackle on Rebels winger Marika Koriobete. Had he missed, Koriobete was away, and as it turned out, the game lost.

The highlight was a spectacular 60-metre midfield bust that turned defence into attack, throw in his accurate cut out passes, his safety with aerials with prodigious line kicking, and Beale had one helluva 80 minutes.

But he wasn’t alone.

Bernard Foley had such an abysmal first 40, failing to find touch five times with the worst kicking a penalty dead, and he went missing in general play.

Coach Daryl Gibson should have dragged him at the break, but thankfully he didn’t.

Foley came out in the second session as a new man to play a blinder, setting his backline alight, swooping on a loose Rebel lineout throw to sprint 60 metres to the tryline, then adding 11 points with his perfect boot, to score all the Waratahs second-half points.

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And the third Waratah to deserve a salute was skipper Michael Hooper, whose non-stop 80 minutes of defence celebrated his 100th Super appearance.

Yet the Waratahs are a strange side, attracting a poor home crowd of 10,114 despite the fact it was a top of the table Australian Conference clash vital to both sides.

But the Waratahs can’t blame the fans for not showing up when they don’t know how their team will play. So the fans keep their hard-earned cash in the wallet and watch it on television.

Last night was another perfect example.

The Waratahs could only manage 42 per cent possession and 38 per cent territory in the first 40 with just Beale on attack and Hooper defending the rare ones in credit.

Michael Hooper of the Waratahs

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Down 20-7 at the break, the Waratahs had gift-wrapped the Rebels two soft tries and coughed up ten points in the last ten minutes through dumb rugby.

At best, the Waratahs chances of winning were bleak.

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But a vastly different Waratahs took to the field for the second session, and because they started to do the simple things right they took control with 53 per cent possession and 61 per cent territory.

The Rebels looked stunned – they thought this was going to be a walk in the park.

They boast Adam Coleman, Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani up front and Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, and Koriobete in the backline who should all be in the Wallaby World Cup squad, plus Jack Maddocks who failed a concussion test early last night.

Jones has a mortgage on the Wallaby six jersey, Naisarani the eight.

The Rebels are a quality side, and despite the loss still top the Australian Conference.

But they lost the plot last night, and the Waratahs pounced.

Despite slippery conditions they kept turnovers to 17, the same number as their missed tackles. Normally both negative stats are far higher than that.

The cold hard fact is the Waratahs are capable of playing scintillating rugby and dumb rugby within minutes of each other.

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They got away with it last night, but when they play the New Zealand sides they will pay heavily for the scintillating-dumb rugby gap.

Leave the dumb bit in the shed.