Folau pounces to keep Waratahs' title hopes alive
May 11, 2013
Israel Folau celebrates his match-winning try for the Waratahs against the Stormers © Getty Images
Israel Folau kept the Waratahs' Super Rugby finals hopes with a desperate last-gasp try to seal a 21-15 victory over the Stormers at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Folau has bagged seven tries in 11 games since switching codes, and he continues to make an irresistible claim for a Wallabies debut against the British & Irish Lions next month. Returning Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes was another hero for the Waratahs after making his comeback from wrist surgery with 17 minutes remaining. Barnes delivered a sloppy forward pass with his first touch after replacing five-eighth Bernard Foley, but he atoned by firing the match-winning pass for Folau's five-pointer and capped his return with a long-range penalty goal after the siren.
The Blues defeated the Melbourne Rebels 36-32 in Auckland but not before they threatened to blow a 19-point half-time lead. The Blues cut loose in the first half, with powerful wing Frank Halai taking his chances whenever they were created on the flanks to score three tries as the hosts claimed a four-try bonus point by the 25th minute.
But they lost their intensity in the second period and the Rebels threatened to make them pay. The Rebels absorbed some half-time rockets from the coaching staff and produced a much tighter game with significant rewards in the second half, clawing their way back to 29-25 with 15 minutes to play, when they seemed to have the momentum to claim a victory. But, with 10 minutes to play, replacement flanker Luke Braid sparked the Blues with a valuable run, supported by replacement half-back Jamison Gibson-Park, and they provided Rene Ranger a chance to open up the Rebels to secure a converted try and a defining 11-point buffer.
In Saturday's other game, two tries from flanker Luke Watson helped the Southern Kings register a 34-17 victory over the Highlanders in their battle in Port Elizabeth. Both sides scored four tries but the superior kicking boot of Kings fly-half Demetri Catrakilis proved the difference in the match between the two bottom-placed teams coming into round 13. The Highlanders, who secured their first win of the season a week ago against the Sharks, remain languishing in last place with six games remaining, three points behind the Western Force. Their only previous last-placed season was the 1997 Super 12.
The Reds powered past the Sharks 32-17 in their Super Rugby clash at the Suncorp Stadium on Friday evening. In a blistering first-half from the Brisbane franchise, they crossed for four tries with Saia Faingaa going over after just two minutes. Rod Davies added a spectacular try 14 minutes in while Anthony Faingaa emulated his brother and bagged a try of his own in the 20th minute. Come the 33rd minute and the Reds had their fourth with Davies grabbing his second.
The Reds had a 29-3 lead and it proved to be too much for the Sharks to pin back but they gave it a good shot with Piet Lindeque going over in the 42nd minute and Derick Minnie scoring after 65. Pat Lambie slotted both conversions but it proved to be fruitless with the Reds running out comfortable winners to keep the pressure on the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference.
Elsewhere, the Chiefs edged past the Western Force 22-21 in Pukekohe to cement their place at the top of the New Zealand conference. The Force got off to the perfect start with winger Pat Dellit going over after just two minutes but Lelia Masaga's try 14 minutes later, coupled with Aaron Cruden's accurate kicking, got the Chiefs back in front. The rest of the half turned out to be a battle from the tee between Cruden and Force fullback Jayden Hayward and it was the Chiefs who went into the break 19-11 to the good. The Chiefs added just three points in the second 40 while Dellit bagged another try for the Force. And they very nearly stole the victory with Hayward's boot bringing them to within a single point of the home side but it was the Chiefs who clung on for the win.
In Friday's other game, the Hurricanes kept their play-off hopes alive by denting those of the Cheetahs with a 39-34 victory in their clash in Bloemfontein. After a tryless first half which saw the sides go to the break locked at 12-12, the Hurricanes posted four second-half tries to record a bonus-point victory. Fly-half Beauden Barrett scored 24 points courtesy of the side's first try in the 50th minute, two conversions and five penalty goals.
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