Tahs edge tryless Stormers
Tahs edge tryless StormersSHARE
A late try from Waratahs fullback Israel Folau helped secure a 21-15 victory over the Stormers in a tense clash in Sydney on Saturday.
Folau, who was outstanding in the Waratahs' 72-10 rout of the Kings in South Africa last weekend, finished off smart work from Berrick Barnes to score and put the home side in front in the 77th minute of a grinding match.
The Waratahs found the disciplined Stormers' defence tough to break down after their 11-try canter over the Kings, but they scored the only two tries of the match against the Cape outfit.
Skipper Dave Dennis turned down two kickable penalties to go after the clinching try in the final minutes and was rewarded when Barnes found Folau in space after Springbok wing Bryan Habana had rushed up in defence and created a hole.
Barnes kicked the conversion and then made sure of victory with a penalty from halfway on the full-time siren for the Waratahs' sixth win of the season to lie third in the Australian conference, 11 points behind leaders the Brumbies.
"If anything fatigue was hurting us getting going and we came home strongly," Dennis said. "The team is a lot fitter this year and that's a couple of times now we've come home strong at the end."
The victory was the Waratahs' first win in four games against the Stormers and provided further evidence that the perennial under-achievers are beginning to gel under the coaching of Michael Cheika after a rocky start to the season.
Former Rugby League international Folau, who is in his first season in Rugby Union, continues to push his claims for Wallabies selection for next month's Test series against the touring British and Irish Lions.
"I am slowly learning each week and getting a lot more confident as well so the more work I do at training hopefully I can come into the games and do that as well," Folau said.
"It's been great so far with the Waratahs and I'm looking forward to playing out the rest of the year."
It was Folau's leap above Habana for a high kick that led to the Waratahs' other try by wing Cam Crawford in the 24th minute.
The Stormers kept the pressure on the Waratahs, who were lethargic after making the trip back home this week from two matches in South Africa.
Fullback Joe Pietersen kicked five penalties from five attempts to put the Stormers in front 15-11 heading into the final minutes.
The Stormers lost forwards Duane Vermeulen and Rynhardt Elstadt with possible tour-ending leg injuries just before Folau's clinching try.
"We fought back nicely to get the lead with about 10 minutes to go and then we had two quite serious injuries to our back rowers, we lost them and then we lost the rhythm on defence and we let in the try," skipper Jean de Villiers said.
"That's been our downfall this season and tonight and it was something we addressed during the week as something we needed to work on and unfortunately we couldn't hold on to the ball again."
The Waratahs have a local derby with tournament leaders Brumbies in Sydney next week, while the Stormers finish their Australasian tour against the Rebels in Melbourne.
Man of the match: Israel Folau was the stand-out player in a dour match. He was pivotal to both tries that the Waratahs scored and showed some sublime touches under pressure.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Crawford, Folau
Pens: McKibbin 2, Barnes
For the Stormers:
Pens: Pietersen 5
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Berrick Barnes, 23 Drew Mitchell.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)