Waratahs rebound with big win after tough week

The New South Wales Waratahs put a tumultuous week behind them to claim their first scoring bonus point of the season with a five-try spanking of the Auckland Blues in their Super 14 game on Saturday.

The Waratahs gave their most accomplished performance of the season to down the third-placed Blues 37-16 to move into sixth place and press their semifinal claims.

Their composed victory capped a week when Ewen McKenzie was told officially his coaching contract was not being renewed for next season, even though the Waratahs had won four of their six games and were still in contention for the play-offs.

Dominating possession and capitalising on Auckland’s flood of errors, the Waratahs always had control of the game, leading 25-11 with 15 minutes left after being 18-8 up at half-time.

The home team were well served by energetic young scrumhalf Luke Burgess and his flyhalf partner, Kurtley Beale, who is showing increasing maturity in his first full season of Super 14 rugby.

Beale finished with three conversions and two penalties from seven attempts.

Four of the Waratahs’ five tries came through the forwards, with prop Benn Robinson burrowing over in the 16th minute and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau snapping up a loose pass and sprinting 50m to score right on halftime.

Wallaby number eight Wycliffe Paul powered over after 59 minutes and Test teammate winger Lote Tuqiri scored a record 25th try for his province to clinch the first scoring bonus point for the Waratahs this season with 12 minutes left.

Flanker Dean Mumm sealed the victory with a try out wide to finish the scoring.

The Waratahs’ victory was the ideal riposte in a season of criticism over their dour playing style under McKenzie. They face the prospect of a trip across the continent to Perth next week for a match with the Western Force and a place in the top four.

“We’ve been confident in our work and we felt something good was going to come tonight [Saturday],” McKenzie said.

Auckland lost ground in their pursuit of Super 14 leaders the Canterbury Crusaders and finished with two tries, to skipper Troy Flavell and centre Benson Stanley.

“We defended well in the first half but the 80 minutes got the better of us with some fundamental errors,” Flavell said. “Perhaps they were playing for their coach.
They’ve had an interesting week.”

Flyhalf Nick Evans had a mixed night with just two penalty goals in his five shots at goal and some aimless general kicking.

Auckland will return home for a match next Saturday against the ACT Brumbies in a bid to revive their semifinal hopes.—AFP

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