The New South Wales Waratahs have secured a hard-fought 20-15 victory over the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
The visiting Waratahs were desperate for a win after a disappointing defeat to the Jaguares in western Sydney last week. The Rebels, on the other hand, were flying high after putting 50 points on the Sunwolves in Tokyo last week.
In muddy and greasy conditions in Melbourne, it was the Waratahs who struck first.
Off the top of the lineout, Lalakai Foketi found himself with the ball in midfield. He delivered an excellent ball in front of Kurtley Beale who got around his defender and streaked away.
Beale got over half-way and offloaded to Curtis Rona who skinned Dane Haylett-Petty on the outside. Rona handed it inside to Foley who quickly tapped it back to Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Ashley-Cooper juggled it on his way to the line but managed to hold on for a cracker of a five-pointer. Foley whipped the conversion around to put the score 7-0 inside ten minutes.
The Rebels got on the board three minutes later when referee Paul Williams pinged Rob Simmons for not releasing as the tackler. Quade Cooper slotted through the penalty kick from right in front.
The greasy conditions meant both sides had multiple kicking duels, attempting to gain some valuable territory.
In the 17th and 23rd minutes, penalties for hands in the ruck and offside allowed the ‘Tahs to extend their lead. Foley did so in both instances, the score 13-3.
Curtis Rona was denied a try in the left-hand corner when an incredible cover tackle from Matt To’omua knocked the former Bulldogs rugby league player into touch.
Rona seemed to have taken his revenge when he then stopped a barnstorming Marika Koroibete metres from the line. Replays showed the Rona had, in fact, tucked his left arm in, therefore resulting in a shoulder-charge. He was penalised but nothing came of it.
The Rebels looked to have scored minutes before halftime but a TMO review found that Anaru Rangi had knocked the ball on in the lead-up. The try was disallowed and the score at halftime remained 13-3 in favour of the visiting ‘Tahs.
The Rebels came out firing in the second term and it was them who scored first.
The Rebels managed to earn a penalty advantage from the back of a lineout maul. When released from the collapsed maul, Jack Maddocks swung it wide to find Koroibete. Koroibete got on the outside of Alex Newsome and offloaded behind Kurtley Beale to set Haylett-Petty hurtling towards the corner. Ashley-Cooper was hunting him down but Haylett-Petty popped it inside to Cooper who slid over for a very important try. Cooper’s conversion reduced the margin to three points.
The ‘Tahs hit back five minutes later to restore their handy lead.
Ashley-Cooper found himself charging down the touchline and managed to get his left hand free. He was being tackled into touch but wildly flung the ball back infield. Luckily, it hit Rona’s leg and bounced towards the try-line. Rona was first to ground it and even after a TMO review, the try was deemed all good. A very fortunate try, but a try nonetheless. Foley added the extras, the score 20-10.
The Rebels were keen to steal it from the New South Welshman though and Koroibete got himself in the game again.
The Rebels were ten metres out from the ‘Tahs line, punching through the forwards. Koroibete, off his wing, picked and went from the fringe of the ruck and broke the advantage line. He found Genia on his outside shoulder who was untouched on his way to the chalk. Cooper missed the conversion after hooking it to the right of the posts, the lead now just a slender five points.
Neither side could add points in the final twenty minutes, so the last chance for the Rebels had to be after the siren. They earned a penalty 60 metres out and they kicked into touch for one final effort. It was not to be, a knock-on from the resulting phase-play signalling the end of the match. The Waratahs held on for a 20-15 victory.
This win keeps the Waratahs in the race for the finals with only a couple of weeks to go. They return to western Sydney to take on the Brumbies next week.
The Rebels desperately needed a win but couldn’t get the job done. They now embark on the notoriously tough road-trip to Christchurch, to take on the ever-impressive Crusaders.