Frustrated would be the word to best describe the emotions of Waratahs fans as they watched their side squander countless opportunities to as they failed to end the win streak of New Zealand teams over Australian sides.
The Waratahs went on attack in the first couple of minutes and made the unusual decision to opt for a shot at goal when awarded a penalty 30 metres out and 5 metres in from the sideline. The Tahs have generally chosen to kick for the corner when awarded a non-trivial shot at goal but this time they took the shot. Foley pushed it wide of the near post and the scores reminded nil-all.
In the seventh minute, a well placed kick from the Blues stayed just inside the touchline as Israel Folau fielded it inside his 22. With little support the clear option was to kick but he opted for a long pass which went to Foley on the bounce and under pressure who passed again to Beale out wider. Beale had no option but to take the tackle and the only viable option at this point was to hold onto the ball and give away a penalty. The ball squirted out onto the Blues side of the breakdown and Reiko Ioane strolled over to score the first try. 7-nil and the Tahs found themselves behind for the remainder of the match.
Only a few minutes later the Blues scooped up a loose ball and Ioane looked set to run 80 metres to score but a determined Cam Clark never gave up the chase. Only metres from the try line he finally caught his man and pulled down Ioane from behind. With the presence of mind to place his hand on the tackled player, Clark prevented the try as Ioane was penalised for getting up without releasing the ball. An unbelievable try saving effort.
When the points were on offer the Blues took them and a penalty goal to Perofeta a few minutes later made it 10-nil.
A strong attacking raid from the Waratahs and Folau created an overlap for Cam Clark who charged towards the corner only to have his progress stopped by a careless high tackle from Blues backrower Dalton Papali’i. Referee Jaco Peyper consulted with George Ayoub but they decided that whilst a yellow card it wasn’t a penalty try. The Tahs kicked for the corner and managed to execute the maul and Damien Fitzpatrick crashed over to make it 10-7.
Four minutes later and a player down, Stephen Perofeta stepped through the line to make a half break and offloaded. Matt Duffie linked up with his winger Tamua Manu who scored in the corner. 15-7. The Waratahs struck straight back. Folau fielded the short kick off, a raid down the right edge was stopped just short of the line but it was a case of Sekope on the spot who picked up the ball at the breakdown and crashed over in the corner. Foley added the extras and it was 15-14. A further penalty goal to the Blues had them leading 18-14 at the break.
The story of the season for the Waratahs so far has been a lack of composure and patience on attack and that continued in the first twenty minutes of the second half. Lots of possession and territory only led to dropped balls and breakdown errors as they failed to capitalise on promising opportunities. Too often they were too lateral spreading the ball from side to side despite little forward progress. Meanwhile discipline problems presented the Blues with a couple of shots at goal and the lead was extended to 24-14. The Waratahs finally worked out that a simple game plan of making the advantage line through the forwards and then looking to spread the ball wide is the way to make headway against a good defence. A few well executed phases saw them advance downfield before Beale went through a gap, offloaded to Hooper who popped up in support and ran away to score. At 24-21 with a few minutes left the Tahs were in the hunt.
A couple of sustained attacking raids were frustrated by solid Blues defence and each time possession broke down. Paddy Ryan carried too high into contact and was held up in the maul. With two minutes remaining the Tahs were peppering the Blues try line and thought they had penalty advantage. A cross field kick from Beale to Folau was too long and the ball went into touch. Unfortunately it had only been a knock-on advantage and it looked like the game was over. The Blues presented the Tahs with one final possession after the siren but a dropped ball signalled full time.
The Blues emerged victors 24-21 in what was a fairly error riddled game. The Waratahs were their own worst enemies and couldn’t convert a significant territory and possession advantage into a win.
The Game Changer
Cam Clark’s extraordinary try saving tackle on Reiko Ioane. Whilst they still lost the game this play kept the Waratahs in it.
The G&GR MOTM
Stephen Perofeta made a few critical plays for the Blues and his goal kicking ultimately got the Blues home despite scoring one less try.
Aside from a silly penalty, Sekope Kepu was strong throughout and bagged himself a clever try. Foley and Beale created plenty of opportunities in attack but were often shaky in defence.
With Will Genia injured the 9 and 21 jerseys for the Wallabies are wide open. Jake Gordon didn’t have his best game but Nick Phipps looked good off the bench. Both could feature in the Wallabies 23 come June.
Scores and Scorers
Trys: D Fitzpatrick, S Kepu, M Hooper
Conversions: B Foley – 3
Trys: R Ioane, T Manu
Conversions: S Perofeta – 1
Penalties: S Perofeta – 4
Cards and Citations
D Papali’I (Blues) Yellow Card