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'No one backed us': $8 outsiders Waratahs upset Crusaders AGAIN as Edmed steps up to deliver famous win

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2nd March, 2024
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On Friday, Waratahs coach Darren Coleman faced more questions about his future at NSW beyond the season. Less than 36 hours later his Waratahs delivered the upset of the season and the side’s biggest win since 2022, as NSW smashed the Crusaders 37-24 in Melbourne.

The victory came against all the odds.

Indeed, the bookies had the Waratahs as $8 outsiders. But as was the case in 2022, where they were considered $15 roughies, the men in blue pulled off another victory as they hung on at the death despite a late comeback.

“I’m really happy for the boys,” Coleman said.

“We didn’t trial well and then we were well-beaten last week. It’s the beauty of sport, isn’t it? No-one backed us to even go close tonight, so that’s what I enjoyed about it.

“The boys care. Sometimes we’re not good, but we work hard. We hadn’t got the fruits of our labour until tonight really.”

Making the victory all the more extraordinary was it was played in the backdrop of new Crusaders coach Rob Penney, who was sacked by the Waratahs in 2021, saying he felt “sorry” for Coleman after the NSW Rugby board had said they would determine the coach’s fate beyond this year by the end of March.

Coleman responded by saying one simple measuring stick could help his bid to gain an extension: winning regularly.

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On Saturday, they did. Now, they need to back it up.

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Tane Edmed sent Harry Wilson in on the stroke of half-time against the Crusaders at AAMI Park, on March 02, 2024, in Melbourne. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Captain Jake Gordon’s runaway try in the 66th minute was the moment that looked like sealing the deal, but hearts were buried deep in the Waratahs mouths after the Crusaders hit back through Christian Lio-Willie.

That was until Tane Edmed, who had his finest performance in a blue jersey since leading them to a 24-21 win against Scott Robertson’s Crusaders at Leichhardt Oval two years ago, made a last-ditched tackle on Scott Barrett to deny the captain a try in the 76th minute.

It was the second time in three years the Waratahs have upset the Crusaders, who have started their rebuild under Penney with consecutive defeats.

On both occasions Edmed was the star.

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After an injury-riddled 2023, Edmed took the ball to the line, kicked well out of hand, controlled the match and defended marvellously. It was the type of performance that saw him picked for Australia A at the end of 2022.

“I reckon if you got him he’d probably cry again,” said Holloway of Edmed in a reminder of the scenes two years ago when the No.10 led the Waratahs to the famous win in Sydney.

“He’s just growing. Another year in the saddle, the coaches have given him the confidence. All these young guys are stepping up to the plate.”

Hugh Sinclair celebrates with Charlie Gamble and Joey Walton after scoring a crucial try against the Crusaders at AAMI Park, on March 02, 2024, in Melbourne. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Edmed wasn’t alone in rolling up the sleeves.

Angus Bell was once again a tank up front, under-rated hooker Mahe Vailanu was everywhere, second-rowers Holloway and Hugh Sinclair toiled well and Charlie Gamble was physical.

Waratahs midfielder Joey Walton was another who was exceptional, with his decision-making on when to run, pass and kick first-rate.

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Replacement Ned Hanigan also ensured the Waratahs didn’t run out of puff either, with the maligned versatile forward excellent on his return as he once again showed his physicality and skill at the lineout and in the tackle zone.

Joey Walton was brilliant for the Waratahs in their upset win over the Crusaders at AAMI Park, on March 02, 2024, in Melbourne. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

With a brand new halves pairing in Noah Hotham and Taha Kemara, a scrum that took a while to get going and a lineout that was picked off by Holloway, the Crusaders fluffed their lines and gave the Waratahs plenty of opportunities. For once, the men in blue took them.

Early on it looked like being a different story.

The Crusaders found space on the fringes and scored within 90 seconds, as Macca Springer touched down out wide after getting on the end of an overlap.

But the Waratahs responded well as Edmed knocked over consecutive penalties.

As so often is the case though, the Crusaders hit back hard and the Waratahs failed to withstand the pressure with Harry Johnson-Holmes infringing twice on his goal line to be shown a yellow card. Within a flash Sevu Reece had his first try, as the Crusaders took a 10-6 lead.

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Some workmanship from Hugh Sinclair however swung the game, as the second-rower charged down the next clearing kick and showed enough pace to score next to the posts.

Edmed then extended the lead out to 16-10 with his third penalty.

A nice break from Walton in the 36th minute then put the Waratahs back on the front-foot and allowed Coleman’s side to set up camp in the Crusaders’ attacking 22.

Initially it looked like the Waratahs had blown a big chance by turning down shots at goal and failing to execute in the pursuit of a try.

But the Waratahs were given one more chance when Hotham’s clearing kick barely got past the 22 metre line just seconds out from half-time.

It was a costly kick, with the Waratahs pouncing from the next lineout as Edmed sliced through and sent in Harry Wilson to score.

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The Crusaders struck first in the second half through Reece, who bounced out of a couple of tackles to make mince meet out of the Waratahs’ defence.

But the Waratahs regrouped well with Edmed delivering, as his cross-field kick found Triston Reilly out wide.

The Waratahs had another when Gordon intercepted to score.

They then withstood a late push from the Crusaders to seal an important win that starts a three-match run against New Zealand opposition, which continues next week in Sydney against the Highlanders.

Thoughts yet about their opponents next week?

“Highlanders?” Coleman responded on Stan Sport. “I’ve got about 10 or 15 schooners to get through tonight first. That’s before midnight. No, I’m joking.

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“I don’t think you can worry about that at the moment. Obviously, we’ll look after the boys’ injuries but the boys deserve to enjoy themselves. It’s pretty high pressure, so I’m just going to enjoy the night and worry about the Highlanders tomorrow morning.”

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