The HSBC Waratahs broke a nine match losing streak when they beat the Melbourne Rebels 31 -26 on a wet track at Allianz Stadium.
After being behind 16-6 at half time the Waratahs were resurgent in the second half and got to a 31-19 lead before the Rebels showed great heart in coming back and scoring a try on the bell.
The Waratahs started off well and Kingston nearly went in but then the Rebels took control of territory and possession for most of the rest of the half.
The Waratahs got caught in a cycle of not having possession, trying too hard to get it back, being penalised, then being pushed deep into their own half – or scored against.
At 23 minutes the Waratahs lost a man to the bin for repeated infringements and soon after Ged Robinson scampered over for a Rebel try from the front of a lineout.
At half-time the Rebels had a well-deserved scoreline of 16-6 and the Waratahs looked rudderless.
It didn’t look any better for the home team after oranges either when a Waratahs’ kick was charged down in their 22, but the Rebels couldn’t capitalise on their good work.
Then things changed: Tom Kingston was replaced, Israel Folau switched to the wing, and Ben Volovola came off the bench to play fullback, his best position.
The Waratahs’ Rubik Cube seemed to click into the right alignment and of a sudden there was a bit of passing and catching zing as they put pace on the game. Now it was the Rebels on the back foot and getting into the same ‘series of unfortunate events’ that the Waratahs were in before the break. At 47 minutes it was their turn to get a yellow card .
Two tries in seven minutes to Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley, and another ten minutes later to Paddy Ryan, meant that the Waratahs had five minutes to score a fourth try for a bonus point.
But it was the Rebels who finished better and Beale scored a try in the last minute of the game.
The Waratahs will know that they can’t afford to have the same bad start against the Brumbies next week as they had against the Reds and the Rebels. They will have to improve their lineouts and restarts also
The Rebels will rue, once more, not taking all their chances when they had ascendancy.
The Game Changer
When the Waratahs bench players came on they looked like a new team.
Volavola made a noticeable impact; but Folau also switched on when he moved to the wing.
The G&GR MOTM
The offical MOTM was Benn Robinson and you could see why, as he had his best game for a while.
But the Gagger MOTM award goes to Ben Volavola, the catalyst.
James O’Connor was always dangerous running square to tacklers and stepping, and Kurtley Beale tried hard to lift his team despite an injured shoulder. THP Laurie Weeks stepped up for the Rebels and Michael Hooper seemed to have a twin on the ground for the Tahs.
Scrumhalves McKibbin, who set up the first Tahs try, and Phipps, looked good when their side had dominance.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Score & Scorers
Tries: Bernard Foley, Michael Hooper, Paddy Ryan
Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (2)
Penalties: B. McKibbin (4)
Cards & citings
24 min: Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs) – Yellow card – (repeated team infringements)
47 min: Laurie Weeks (Rebels) – Yellow card – (repeated team infringements)