March 22, 2015
The Waratahs were back to their best with a 28-13 triumph over the Brumbies at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.
Played out at a real intensity, with plenty of Wallaby team-mates being watched on by the Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika and future assistant Stephen Larkham, this was a crackling Australian derby.
Israel Folau was excellent and looked like his old self with a fine assist and try in the first half alone, busting through tackles and constantly involved.
The Waratahs have been searching for their vintage 2014 form without really touching the heights of their championship year so far this season, with the Brumbies holding a ten-point lead over their hosts in the Australian Conference before kickoff.
However the champions were pumped up for this one, taking the intensity of the derby and using that aggression to their advantage. The passes that haven't been sticking in the opening rounds finally worked and their defence was first-rate.
Their defence parted easily however to allow the opening try for Matt Toomua, as the fly-half picked a gap and sped through on a curving run to score the first try after three minutes.
That good fortune for the Brumbies didn't last however, with Scott Fardy yellow carded when referee Craig Joubert viewed his knock-on as deliberate when he rushed out for an interception. The Waratahs couldn't cross the line despite strong carries from Sekope Kepu and Kurtley Beale, settling for three points from Bernard Foley.
Foley added another easy three points after creating confusion in the Brumbies' ranks with a high bomb as the Waratahs chipped the Brumbies lead down to just a point.
Christian Lealiifano responded after Toomua was taken out after kicking ahead by Matt Carraro, before Fardy's return had the Brumbies back to full strength.
A real statement of a scrum from the Brumbies earned them another penalty for Lealiifano to knock over, making it 6-13, but the Waratahs responded in style and never looked back from here on out.
Folau was at his best when he broke a tackle and burst through the defence, feeding Foley on his inside for the try. The fly-half converted to tie things up.
The Australia fullback followed it up minutes later with a fine try of his own, combining with Carraro as the two exchanged passes for Folau to notch up his first try of the year with a great score. Those back-to-back tries gave the Waratahs 14 quick points to take a 20-13 advantage into half-time.
Beale extended the hosts' lead with a big penalty just at the start of the second half to give the champions some breathing room as they continued to force the Brumbies into handling errors with some aggressive defence.
Twice in succession the Brumbies defended the Waratahs driving maul as it marched towards their try line to avoid going down further behind, but their attack couldn't get going, hounded by the home side's blitz defence.
Even the Brumbies driving maul, so effective this season, struggled to dominate the home side as the visitors forwards and backs combined to try and get the ball over the line with time running out in the second half.
Tevita Kuridrani will live to regret going on his own for the line rather than taking the numbers outside as he knocked on near to the try line, departing instantly with an arm injury sustained in trying to get his side back into the contest.
Henry Speight was the next to go close, thumped into touch by Michael Hooper as he dove for the try in the corner and after a long look by the TMO adjudged to have lost possession.
Naturally it was Folau who wrapped things up. The Brumbies had contained him in the second half but a storming carry created a coast-to-coast attack that was finished with hooker Tolu Latu, on his first start, sprinting for the corner and scoring.
That sprung the Brumbies attack back into life but it was too little too late trailing by 15 points with little time remaining.
Latu paid the price for the 'Tahs indiscipline near their own line with a late yellow card but the Brumbies still couldn't find that score as the home defence held firm.
A resounding win then for the Waratahs, who scored 22 unanswered points after going behind early on to close the gap between themselves and their beaten visitors in the Australian Conference.