Waratahs blow plucky Rebels away
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: Wallaby star Israel Folau scored a try double to spearhead the Waratahs to a free-wheeling 50-23 Super Rugby win over the Rebels in Sydney on Sunday.
Folau put behind his form troubles to be the standout player in the Waratahs eight tries to three bonus-point victory to close to within four points of the Brumbies in the Australian conference.
The Waratahs led 24-11 at half-time and were in danger of defeat when the Rebels pulled back to 29-23 before the home side rattled on 21 unanswered points. It was the Waratahs' 11th win in 13 encounters with the Rebels, who are in limbo awaiting their fate for next year's Super Rugby competition.
"Izzy [Folau] was special tonight, there's been a lot made of Izzy this season, so the character of the man to turn up and just want the ball, I'm so happy for him.
"We played some fantastic rugby and some guys really stepped up tonight," Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said.
Wallabies playmaker Bernard Foley also produced an outstanding attacking display to go with his five conversions.
Despite the margin blowing out in the final stages, an unprecedented fifth successive home defeat earlier looked a possibility before three tries in 10 minutes - to Dean Mumm, Ned Hanigan and Folau - spurted the Waratahs a comfortable 13-point half-time lead.
The Rebels threatened a comeback after pulling to within six points when wing Jonah Placid crashed over for his second try. But the Waratahs finished with a flurry as Folau, Hooper and replacements Damien Fitzpatrick and Bryce Hegarty all crossed in the last 20 minutes.
Compounding the Rebels loss, Wallabies centre Reece Hodge lasted less than two minutes before being taken off after colliding heavily with Folau.
It was the first time the 2014 champions had amassed a half-century of points in seven years.
Man of the match: Amanaki Mafi was an absolute monster for the Rebels and by far their standout performer while Jonah Placid came off the bench to chip-in with a brace of tries. Bernard Foley, despite his yellow card, had a steady performance but Israel Folau gets our nod for his threatening runs and his ability to find the try line.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Phipps, Mumm, Hanigan, Folau 2, Hooper, Fitzpatrick, Hegarty
Cons: Foley 5
For the Rebels:
Tries: Mafi, Placid 2
Pens: Volavola 2
Yellow cards: Tolu Latu (Waratahs, 17; repeated infringements - off feet at the ruck); Bernard Foley (Waratahs, 49; intentional knock-on)
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 David McDuling, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Irae Simone.
Rebels: 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge (captain), 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jonah Placid.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)