Folau stars in Waratahs win over Chiefs
April 19, 2013
Israel Folau leapt high to score late in the first half
© Getty Images
Israel Folau showcased all his skills to inspire the New South Wales Waratahs to a gritty 25-20 win over the defending champion Chiefs in Friday night's Super Rugby clash at Allianz Stadium.
A try to replacement hooker John Ulugia four-and-a-half minutes from full-time earned NSW a thrilling victory after the Chiefs had threatened a spirited comeback win from 15-0 down at half-time.
But the Waratahs had Man-of-the-Match Folau very much to thank for keeping their finals hopes flickering.
The high-profile rugby league and AFL convert was instrumental in helping the Tahs to their big half-time buffer and then produced a series of try-saving plays after the break.
In his most entertaining act, Folau soared high to reel in a pinpoint cross-field kick from five-eighth Bernard Foley to touch down two minutes before the break.
It was his fourth try in his rookie Super Rugby season, and third in four games, but first straight from the rugby league playbook, with the Waratahs surprisingly slow to tap into the former Kangaroo's renowned aerial skills.
The conversion from Brendan McKibbin gave the home team its 15-point buffer as the Chiefs were kept scoreless for an entire half for the first time all season.
But the match turned two minutes into the second half when NSW lock Sitaleki Timani was yellow carded for a high tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams.
The Chiefs immediately capitalised on their one-man advantage, with replacement fullback Gareth Anscombe crossing and converting his own try five minutes later.
The Waratahs scored the winning try late in the match after the Chiefs had fought back to claim the lead (video only available in Australia)
A McKibbin penalty goal briefly gave the Tahs some breathing space before two replies from Anscombe nudged the Chiefs within five points of the locals.
The titleholders appeared to have stolen the points when prop Ben Tameifuna swivelled his way over under the posts and Anscombe slotted the extras to take a 20-18 lead with the clock winding down.
But with NSW's season on the line, Ulugia steamed onto a short ball from Foley to score the match-winning try that vaulted the Waratahs to seventh place on the ladder.
Fresh off the bye, the Waratahs made a vibrant start to the match with fullback Folau, centre Rob Horne and even prop Benn Robinson all finding themselves in open space in the early stages.
It seemed inevitable the Chiefs defence would crack and so it did when midfield star Adam Ashley-Cooper made All Blacks five-eighth Aaron Cruden look silly as he stepped inside him to put debutant winger Cam Crawford in for the opening try in the 14th minute.
After nailing an early penalty goal, McKibbin missed the relatively easy conversion attempt to leave NSW ahead 8-0 before Folau's heroics virtually doubled the Tahs' advantage.
The only downer for the Waratahs was the loss of injury-plagued Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell to another hamstring strain.
Chiefs' fullback Andrew Horrell was another casualty, departing on a stretcher with what appeared a serious leg injury.