Waratahs withstand Shark attack

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16 May 2015
Waratahs withstand Shark attack

The Waratahs got back to winning ways with three tries in Sydney to down the Sharks 33-18 and move top of the Australian Conference.

Tries from Adam Ashley-Cooper and Taqele Naiyaravoro got them on their way before Bernard Foley's late breakaway score sealed the win and handed the Sharks a sixth straight defeat for the first time in their Super Rugby history.

Despite tries from Odwa Ndungane and Frans Steyn, the visitors paid the price for their indiscipline, with Foley kicking 18 points for the 'Tahs.

The hosts had the first try within a minute after a great set play off a lineout. They went off the top and Foley's inside ball put Michael Hooper through a gap. He then played the simple two-on-one with Ashley-Cooper to send the centre under the posts. Foley converted to make it 7-0 in no time at all.

In an entertaining opening quarter the Sharks twice came close to their first try, with first Lwazi Mvovo, and then Stefan Ungerer failing to hold on with the tryline at their mercy.

The 'Tahs had a chance of their own when Hooper went clean through, and while he probably didn't have the legs to run the length of the field, he didn't have the chance to find out after losing control of the ball with no-one close to him.

The Sharks cut the deficit with a penalty from Steyn after a scrum infringement, but Foley matched him after the Sharks were caught holding on just in front of their own line after a dangerous Waratahs attack.

Having been dominated at the scrum early on, the Tahs were able to turn things around, and Foley made it three from three with a penalty just before the half-hour to make it 13-3.

With five minutes to go in the half Stephen Hoiles handled in a ruck, giving Steyn a shot at goal from the left and the Springbok centre made no mistake to make it a one-score game.

That was how it stayed until the break, despite a little scuffle to close out the half after Israel Folau had been stopped just short of the line by some desperate Sharks defence. The visitors managed to turn the ball over before earning a penalty to close out the first 40 minutes.

The start of the second half of was dominated by the Tahs but the Sharks held out, forcing their hosts backwards before earning a penalty on halfway. With the Waratahs caught napping, Lionel Cronje fired a low cross-kick towards the home 22 and Ndungane was far too quick for Tolu Latu and went over on the right. Steyn missed the conversion but the Tahs' lead was cut to 13-11.

The response from the home side was instantaneous, with Naiyaravoro somehow getting over in the corner. After a Tahs maul, the ball was spread wide, and the powerful winger just about held off the challenge of Mvovo to force it down, after adjudication from the TMO. Foley converted from the touchline to make it 20-11.

The lead didn't last long, with the Sharks coming straight back up the pitch and scoring their second try. Quick hands set up an overlap out wide and after Kurtley Beale sprinted out of the defensive line, Cronje offloaded to Steyn for the simple run-in. With the extras the lead was just two.

A high tackle from Cronje on a slipping Beale gave Foley an easy shot at three points, and he made no mistake to stretch the hosts' lead once again, before adding three more when JP Pietersen produced an intentional knock-on, to make it 26-18.

The Sharks almost got back into it with 10 minutes remaining when S'bura Sithole looked to have crossed acrobatically in the corner, but after consultation with the TMO it was deemed that he had just put a knee in touch before dotting down.

It was cruel on the Sharks, who were on the wrong end of a lot of decisions on the night, and their evening finished in disappointment when a loose ball in midfield was hacked forward by Foley, who then scooped it up and sprinted over unchallenged for the final try of the game two minutes from time, adding the conversion for a 23-point haul.

While the win pushes the Tahs ahead of the Brumbies in the Australian conference, they will need to improve a great deal next week when they take on the fast-finishing Crusaders in a rematch of last year's final.