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Waratahs quell the Rebels second time around

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 23/05/2014 Stathi Paxinos
Tom English of the Rebels is tackled by Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Waratahs. © Getty Images Tom English of the Rebels is tackled by Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Waratahs.

  • Waratahs avoid banana skin

The last time NSW ventured to AAMI Park, the Melbourne Rebels sprang a 24-22 ambush late last season that began a run which saw the Waratahs slip from finals contention. They did not make the same mistake this time around, as they first withstood and then steamrolled the Rebels 41-19.

But it was not as easy a run for the Waratahs as the scoreline suggests with the Rebels, which beat Queensland last round, remaining in touch until the 65th minute when Kurtley Beale score the sealer that gave NSW a four-try bonus point. However, it was a worthy victory for the Waratahs which dominated possession from the opening seconds when Israel Folau soared above his Rebels opponents to tap Bernard Foley's kick-off back into light blue hands.

The Waratahs began the game as though they were not going to give the Rebels a sniff this time around but were not able to completely break away until the final 15 minutes with Israel Folau finally scoring his 10th try of the season to equal the club record for a season set by Peter Hewitt in 2005. Brendan McKibbin added a late try to extend the lead to 41-19 with Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper , Michael Hooper and Beale among the earlier scorers. 

The Rebels would be disappointed with the late fade-out, after doing well to stay with NSW despite having little possession. The Rebels closed the Waratahs' lead to 24-19 after late inclusion, winger Telusa Veainu, scooped up a loose ball - the result of a rare mistake by Folau - and scored a length-of-the-field try.

However, NSW showed no sign of fatigue from a short turnaround, having beaten the Lions 41-13 last Sunday, with Hooper's try in particular, which came from a scrum win against the head, reinforcing its dominance. The final score could have been even greater had Foley and Beale not missed 16 points in kicks.

The Rebels were forced into a late change when Tamati Ellison withdrew because of a knee injury. Ellison had appeared to aggravate an existing injury to a heavily strapped left knee at the final training session on Thursday. He was replaced at outside centre by winger Tom English with Telusa Veainu coming onto the wing and Lalakai Foketi onto the bench.

The only highlight the Rebels had in the first 15 minutes was a solid hit that Mitch Inman put on Folau and it seemed a matter of time before the Rebels' reliable defence would crack. It was Bernard Foley who was the provider, tricking the Rebels' line by dummying to Beale before offloading to Rob Horne who slipped past two defenders before barging this way through full-back Jason Woodward to score. Foley, who had nailed an earlier penalty, missed the conversion attempt to leave the Waratahs lead at 8-0.

However, a hallmark of the Rebels this season has been their refusal to panic and again the Melbourne team slowly worked its way back into the game. By mid-way through the first half, the Rebels had worked the score to 8-6 through two successful penalties to Woodward. A minute later the Rebels, which had only had 30 percent of possession, were ahead after Beale was penalised for deliberately knocking down a pass that, had it found its mark, would have seen  the Rebels almost certainly cap a superbly worked attack. Woodward's successful kick gave the Rebels a 9-8 lead.

The Waratahs however took the ascendency again after Foley added another penalty when Ashley-Cooper scored after a period of sustained attack. Foley again missed the conversion attempt to leave the score at 16-9.

However, half-time hooter brought little relief in the high-energy game as both sides staged post-siren attacks. It ended - or so it seemed - when Pat Leafa was penalised and yellow-carded for a ruck infringement, giving Foley a penalty attempt directly in front of the goals. However, a roar of surprise and delight erupted from the AAMI Park crowd when the NSW five-eighth's kick unexpectedly smashed against an upright, rebounding back into play where Ben Meehan promptly put it into touch to call an end to the first 40 minutes.

Alofa Alofa of the Waratahs is tackled by Cadeyrn Neville of the Rebels © Getty Images Alofa Alofa of the Waratahs is tackled by Cadeyrn Neville of the Rebels

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