Waratahs earn scrappy victory in Sydney

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28 Mar 2015
Waratahs earn scrappy victory in Sydney

A late try from replacement Peter Betham wrapped up a scrappy 23-11 victory for the Waratahs over the Blues in Sydney.

We've seen the Waratahs not quite click into shape a lot this year and Saturday's game was just another example, even if they did secure a fourth win in six games.

After such an authoritative performance the Sunday before against the Brumbies this felt like a regression by last year's champions, who had three tries correctly disallowed.

The Blues pressured their hosts constantly around the breakdown but even so, in the first half aspects of the Waratahs decision-making and execution were off the mark, more in line with their performances at the beginning of the season.

Only really in the last 10 minutes, when the Blues were reduced to 14 men, did they really find their touch and mark Benn Robinson becoming the most capped 'Tahs player ever in style.

Despite showing plenty of energy, John Kirwan's side just weren't good enough to defeat the champions on their home turf. Brendan O'Connor's late slip of the ball summed up their night as their record now reads six losses from six games.

Michael Cheika will have been briefly pleased to score a try off first phase at the set-piece though. A well-worked move off the lineout saw Michael Hooper put through a hole and with options either side he sent Nick Phipps on a line under the posts.

Scrums dominated the opening 40 minutes as a result of a number of handling errors with the Waratahs unable to outmuscle their visitors with a series of two or three close to the try line.

It has been a painful opening to the 2015 season for the Blues but they were kept in the contest through the boot of Dan Bowden on his debut at fly-half with two penalties.

Bowden's efforts and the Waratahs' inability to extend their lead despite enjoying plenty of territory meant that the hosts were only ahead by a point at half-time.

Cutting out the "cheap" penalties was the message from Cheika at half-time but if the Waratahs were to get any more points the Blues defence would have to drop their guard.

Super Rugby's bottom side have had their critics this season and rightly so, but the work they put in at times when the Waratahs were hammering away at their 22 couldn't be faulted.

That also went at it in the scrum, a real tussle between two evenly-matched packs that gave referee Jaco Peyper plenty to ponder.

Foley couldn't capitalise after his forwards won a penalty at the scrum, pushing the kick wide of the posts.

After that show of resilience in keeping the Waratahs out the Blues actually took the lead, an inoccuous up and under causing confusion in the Waratahs defensive ranks.

Good hands, particularly from Charlie Faumuina, opened up enough space for Francis Saili to cross in the corner for the Blues first try.

Two quick penalties from Foley turned things around as the Waratahs regained the lead and started to grow in confidence, their scrum in particular beginning to win the battle.

His third three-pointer after a long phase of possession opened up a little breathing room but the Blues still weren't out of the contest only trailing by five heading into the final ten minutes.

A yellow card against Jerome Kaino for a dangerous tackle on Dave Dennis though then made any likelihood of a shock fade away, even if Beale couldn't add the long-range penalty from halfway.

It didn't matter, as the Waratahs rounded off the game with a beautiful try.

Sweet handling from Beale, Israel Folau, Will Skelton and the rest gave Peter Betham the space to run over and dot down, with centurion Stephen Hoiles supplying the final pass. When they get it to work, it sure looks good.

Job done then for the Waratahs, who close the gap with the Brumbies to two points at the top of the Australian Conference but still have work to do.