At a cold, windy and damp graveyard the Waratahs went into the game needing to come away with as many points as possible to put the pressure on the Brumbies and give themselves a chance at finals footy.
The First Half
Both teams took their time settling into the game. For the first 10 minute both teams tried to get on the front foot but made errors and turned the ball over.
The first real chance came for the Blues at the 10 minute mark afters stealing a Waratahs defensive line out 10 meters out, but they knocked on. The Waratahs were awarded a penalty at the scrum allowing them to relieve the pressure of the Blues attack.
At the 14 minute mark the Waratahs were given their first opportunity with an attacking line out on the 10 metre mark. The Waratahs went straight for the maul, which broke down, and were awarded a penalty for the Blues coming in from the side. The Waratahs again took the line out option going to the maul, this time it went to ground, the ball unplayable, as the Waratahs were going forward they were given the feed.
At the scrum, the Waratahs were showing dominance, earning a penalty with the Blues coming up in the scrum. The Waratahs again went to the scrum, exerting their dominance earning a repeat penalty as again the Blues stood up due to the pressure from the Waratahs. With the scrum being set for the third time, the ball finally came out and went through hands to the centre field where the Blues were penalised for a high tackle in front of the posts.
Having scrum dominance, the Waratahs again went to the scrum, and again forced the Blues to pop up, finally being rewarded with a penalty try. Bernard Foley converted from directly in front. 7-0 Waratahs.
From the kick off, the Waratahs received the ball just outside the 22, the pass going back to Israel Folau who kicked into touch, but as the ball was passed back the Blues were awarded an attacking lineout 5 metres from the line. The Waratahs fortunately were able to defuse the Blues attack, stealing the lineout with Foley kicking the ball down field. The Blues received the ball from the kick, getting back on attack and worked their way back up the field, putting Patrick Tuipulotu over in the corner. The TMO confirmed the try, Piers Francis missed the conversion making the score 7 – 5 to the Waratahs.
The Blues got back on attack a few minutes later after the Waratahs were caught offside allowing the Blues to kick to touch for an attacking lineout 5 metres out. The Blues threw in, going straight to the maul and advancing, the maul went to ground with the referee ruling the Waratahs had deliberately collapsed the maul and the Blues were awarded a penalty try. Francis made an easy conversion. 12-7 Blues.
The Waratahs had one more opportunity to get on the board just before halftime. From an attacking lineout 10 metres out, the Waratahs went to the maul, but the Blues managed to stop it legally taking it ground and the turning the ball over.
From the resulting scrum, the Blues, in trying to exit, lost the ball at the breakdown, putting the Waratahs back on attack, going 10 phases until a bobbled last pass on the line turned the ball over to the Blues, closing out the first half.
Half time score: Blues 12 – Waratahs 7
The Second Half
The Waratahs started the second half well, with Michael Hooper breaking through the defence and sending the ball out wide. An offside penalty at the 43 minute mark gave the Waratahs a scrum 5 metres out. Once again the Blues front row was under enormous pressure, standing up in the scrum. The Waratahs were awarded their 2nd penalty try of the match. Foley converted, 14-12 Waratahs.
Some good attacking play from the Blues saw Melani Nanai break the line, getting the ball to Steven Luatua who got off a good offload to Francis. Francis used his fancy footwork to beat 4 defenders to get over the line, successfully converting his own try. 19-14 Blues.
The next 5 minutes saw both teams attacking the line, with the Blues looking threatening each time they had ball in hand. At the 57 minute mark an offside penalty against the Waratahs saw Francis take the 3 points, 22-14 to the Blues.
Just minutes later the Waratahs finally managed to break the Blues defensive line. Folau, on the end of a Hooper pass, beat a defender to easily cross the line. Foley made the conversion, cutting the lead to just one point. 22-21 Blues.
Two minutes later it was the Blues crossing for another try, with Nanai collecting a grubber kick from West after it ricocheted off Dean Mumm’s foot, crossing the line un-opposed. Francis converted to take the lead out to 8 points once again, 29-21 Blues.
At the 70 minute mark the Waratahs went on the attack again, sparked by a turnover to Hooper. A good series of passes sent the ball wide to Reece Robinson who kicked ahead, forcing an offside penalty against the Blues. The Waratahs played on quickly and another good set of passes saw Angus Taavao score, again Foley successfully converted to make it a 1 point game.29-28 Blues.
The Blues came very close to crossing the line off a Francis grubber kick, it was only the boot of Andrew Kellaway right on the try line that stopped the Blues player from gathering the ball and scoring. Frome the resulting lineout close to their line, the Blues went on the attack with George Moala crossing for the final try of the match. Francis missed the conversion, leaving the lead at 6 points, 34-28 to the Blues.
It looked as though the Blues were going to get another opportunity to score after the Waratahs kick off failed to go 10 metres. From the scrum on half way, the Blues kicked the ball into the 22 and regained possession of the ball after it was initially gathered by the Waratahs. A forward pass out wide ended their attack and gave the Waratahs one last chance to steal the game. After a break from Foley and then Rob Horne, a penalty was awarded to the Blues when Horne did not release the ball. The ball was kicked into touch ending a hard fought match.
The losing bonus point gives the Waratahs and their fans a glimmer of hope that they can still make the play offs. It all comes down to the Brumbies now, a single point from them in their match against the Force and it’s all over for the Tahs.
Final score Blues 34 –Waratahs 28
The Game Changer
The substitution of Ofa Tu’ungafasi for Charlie Faumuina helped fix the Blues scrum issues, taking away the one real area of dominance that the Waratahs held over the Blues.
The G&GR MOTM
Paddy Ryan had a good game, particularly come scrum time, where he helped put huge pressure on the Blues front row. His work in the scrum was a major contributing factor in the 2 penalty tries. For the Blues West and Luatua stood out from the pack.
Foley had a better game than last week, putting pressure on the defence and a 100% kicking rate off the tee. No one else really stood out, Horne made some good attacking runs and Folau looked the goods with his try, although the 5 turnovers he conceded did not do much to help the Waratahs out with this one.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Patrick Tuipulotu (26′) Penalty Try (30’) Piers Francis (49′) Melani Nanai (64′) George Moala (77′)
Conversions: Piers Francis 3/5
Penalties: Piers Francis 1/1
Tries: Penalty Try (22’) Penalty try (44’) Israel Folau(61′) Angus Taavao-Matau(72′)
Conversions: Bernard Foley 4/4
Cards & Citings