The Waratahs won a brutally physical game against the Brumbies, with Israel Folau putting on a clinic to see the home team triumph 28-13.
This was one of the most intense Waratahs games I have ever seen. Not only was it brutally physical, but there was a lot of aggro and niggle from both sides. I have never heard so much chat through the ref mike, and this boiled over with a few off the ball scuffles late in the game.
The Tahs won the forward battle, and in the end that was where the game was won and lost. Some of the Brumbies early season stars were outplayed by their Waratah opponents, and despite scoring early the Brumbies just couldn’t find any broken-field situations to really take advantage of.
The Brumbies wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard, with Matt Toomua slicing through some soft Waratah defence, running 25m to score. But the Waratahs came back hard, working down to the Brumbies line thanks to nice runs from Sekope Kepu and Kurtley Beale. With numbers out wide, Scott Fardy attempted an intercept but didn’t quite get there, and his touch was ruled an intentional knock down and he went to the sin-bin for ten. It was certainly a 50/50 call, but in those situations going for the intercept is a dangerous game, and Fardy paid the price.
The Brumbies defence stayed strong, though the Waratahs registered a couple of penalty goals through the boot of Bernard Foley. The Brumbies hit back in the 17th though with three points of their own after a Matt Carraro late tackle. With Fardy back on the field the Brumbies slowly started to get on top, and they kicked further ahead thanks to a dominant scrum, with the score at 13-6 after 20 minutes.
But the remaining 20 first half minutes would belong to the home side. Israel Folau got on the outside of Tevita Kuridrani in midfield, running 20m before throwing a nice inside pass for Foley to finish in the corner. With extras added, the game was tied at 13 apiece. The Waratahs kept their foot on the accelerator, and continued to dominate both territory and possession. Michael Hooper made a nice break on the outside, and the Waratahs scored in the ensuing phases through Folau after a lovely break and inside ball close to the line by Carraro. The Brumbies defended grimly in the latter stages of the half, and held the Waratahs at bay. They went to the oranges with the tahs leading by 20-13.
The Waratahs opened the scoring in the second half thanks to a Kurtley Beale penalty goal from long range. The game started to break down, with both sides defending with aggression and intent but also spinning the ball wide when they had the chance. With twenty minutes left in the game the Waratahs led by 10, but you felt like the game was still in the balance with the blue forwards tiring.
The Brumbies then spent ten minutes trying desperately to crack the Waratah line. They had countless penalties and chances to score, from rolling mauls to attacking scrums. Wave after wave was repelled by the Waratahs, the most impressive example being a tackle by Hooper to thwart a Henry Speight try-scoring chance in the corner. The game was heated, and the crowd could feel the energy. The Brumbies just couldn’t cross the line, spurning a number of kickable penalties in the process. When the Tahs cleared the sighs of relief were palpable around Allianz Stadium.
The clincher came just minutes later. Scott Fardy broke away down the sideline, and on halfway put in a kick well into Waratah territory. Israel Folau fielded the ball, and ran it back well into the Brumbies half, beating four or five tacklers in the process. A few phases later the play was finished in the corner by hooker Tolu Latu, who ran 20m to secure the match for the home side. Foley missed the conversion but the game was done, 28-13 to the Waratahs.
The biggest concern from the Brumbies (and the Wallabies) is the injury to Tevita Kuridrani. He was taken off in the second half with what looked like a shoulder injury. Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua and Rory Arnold also look to have injury issues.
The Game Changer
It had to be the desperate tackle by Michael Hooper on Henry Speight with just 15 minutes left on the clock. Had the Brumbies scored there the margin would have been just five points, and you would have probably had the Brumbies as favourites to finish fast. But the ball came loose in the tackle, and the Brumbies never recovered.
The G&GR MOTM
It could only be one man: Israel Folau. The best game he has had in a long time, he was at the centre of each of the Waratahs tries. It wasn’t even close.
I was really impressed by Sekope Kepu early, but he was completely spent after 45 minutes. Bernard Foley probably won a close points decision over Matt Toomua, though with Waratah forward dominance this wasn’t hugely telling. Will Skelton played the full 80, and took a couple of lineouts as well. Scott Fardy was a menace at the breakdown and had a few nice touches.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Foley, Folau, Latu
Conversions: Foley 2
Penalties: Foley 2, Beale
Penalties: Lealiifano 2
Cards & citings
Fardy (deliberate knock down), Latu (repeated infringements)