Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Waratahs prove capable in Folau’s absence

AFP, SYDNEY

The New South Wales Waratahs yesterday rallied from behind to win their first match since Israel Folau was stood down over anti-gay comments.

Deeply religious Folau, Super Rugby’s all-time leading try scorer, is facing dismissal over his controversial social media posts, with an upcoming tribunal to decide his fate.

It was a major distraction for his team in the lead-up to their clash in Sydney with the Melbourne Rebels, but they put it aside to snatch a 23-20 victory, with Bernard Foley scoring a try and kicking five goals.

“We just wanted to get out on the field and play tonight. I couldn’t be happier,” said Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper, who made his 100th appearance for the side. “Some ill discipline gave them a leg up in the first half, but we knew if we stuck to our game plan and sharpened up our penalties we would have a good shot.”

Kurtley Beale moved into Folau’s fullback position and took several high balls with ease, with Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centers.

Quade Cooper put the Rebels in front with a penalty, before Ashley-Cooper got the first five-pointer, breaking through the defense for his first Super Rugby try since 2015.

Billy Meakes grabbed his fourth try of the season for the Rebels to put them back in the lead and they extended their advantage just before the break with Reece Hodge finding a gap in the defense to dot down. Hodge then booted a penalty to send them into halftime with a 20-7 lead.

However, two Foley penalties pulled the Tahs back to within seven points in the second stanza and he then picked up a line-out overthrow to sprint from almost in his own half for a touchdown.

He converted his own try to draw them level at 20-20, and another penalty gave them the lead and ultimately the win to move them within three points of the Rebels at the top of the Australian conference.

HIGHLANDERS 42, BLUES 12

In Dunedin, New Zealand, an acrobatic Shannon Frizell sparked a Highlanders revival as they rallied to beat the Blues 24-12.

It was all Blues for most of the first half, before Frizell put the Highlanders on the board by diving over a ruck to score. From there they took control to lift themselves off the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

The Blues remain in third place behind the Crusaders and Hurricanes, but have not won an away match in New Zealand since the second round of the 2013 season.

“Our defense did a good job because they’ve got X factor right across their team, and we managed to work hard for each other and shut that down,” said Highlanders’ skipper Ben Smith, who described the win as “awesome.”

Pre-match interest had focused on rival flyhalves Josh Ioane and Otere Black now that Damian McKenzie is out of Rugby World Cup reckoning.

However, neither provided any obvious answers for the All Blacks selectors, although Ioane had a 100 percent kicking record with three out of three.

Veteran Blues center Ma’a Nonu blasted through the Highlanders’ defense to put Tom Robinson over for the opening try in the 22nd minute.

However, fortunes were reversed in the run-up to halftime when momentum shifted to the Highlanders, who were rewarded with Frizell’s dive over a ruck to score. Ioane’s conversion put them two points ahead.

Their domination continued in the second half and their scrum was able to bully the Blues all-All Black front row to earn a penalty try.

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