Barnes leads Waratahs to win over Brumbies
May 18, 2013
Tatafu Polota-Nau's hopes of facing the Lions seemingly disappeared with a fractured arm
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Robbie Deans will name a 25-man squad on Sunday to tackle the British & Irish Lions, with a further six players to be added on June 11 - but the Wallabies coach saw six internationals injured in Super Rugby round 14 on Saturday night.
NSW's incumbent Test hooker, Tatafu Polota-Nau, is almost certainly out of the Lions series after breaking his right forearm just before half-time. Five other Wallabies candidates also failed to see out the match, including Brumbies flanker George Smith, who limped up the tunnel on the hour mark with a knee injury.
Waratahs centre Rob Horne, troubled by an eye problem, was replaced after a strong first half, while Brumbies counterpart Christian Lealiifano suffered a corked thigh and also failed to return after the break. Brumbies centre Pat McCabe hobbled off in the second half, while NSW's incumbent Test lock Kane Douglas endured a particularly sad evening. The Waratahs wore black arm bands after the death of Douglas' mother, Trish during, the week, and there was a minute's silence observed before kick-off, but he lasted only 30 seconds before being escorted off in a concussed state after colliding with Smith in the opening exchanges of the match.
The Brumbies looked set to consolidate top spot on the table and end NSW's finals hopes when they led the Waratahs 22-21 as the clock wound down. But a try to winger Peter Betham six minutes from full-time, after a lovely pass from five-eighth Bernard Foley, saved the Waratahs' season for the second week in a row.
Two long-range penalty goals from Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg had broken a 16-all second-half deadlock before a disappointing crowd of just 21,817 spectators at ANZ Stadium. But Barnes put flanker Michael Hooper over in the 45th minute, and then combined with the flanker to score himself on a wraparound to spark the Waratahs' fightback with a 15 minutes remaining.
The Brumbies led 13-6 at the interval after posting the only two tries of the first half, through skipper Ben Mowen and centre Tevita Kuridrani, but unsuccessful conversion attempts from Mogg kept the home team in touch.
Mogg's fullback showdown with Waratahs star Israel Folau ended in a stalemate, with Mogg's 15 points from five penalty goals countering another impressive display from Folau in both attack and defence.
Mowen paid tribute to Barnes after the game, saying he "controlled things well ... put them on the front foot, scored a great individual try and obviously Pete Betham on the back of that closed it out"
Mowen said "those games in the balance, you've got to take them and it's something we haven't done in the past couple of games; we've let those points go" but he did not agree the Brumbies had lost because of a conservative game plan. "We had a game plan to play some field position, and we probably didn't get the pressure on those kicks [in the final quarter of the game] that we would have liked;" he said. "It's only worthwhile kicking if you're going to get a result from it ... I thought our guys stuck to the plan reasonably well, it's just that 20-minute period [after half-time] you can't be looking to the bloke next to you to do it, you've got to stand up and do it and the Waratahs did that tonight."
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis said his team was developing more faith each week in the attacking brand of football coached by Michael Cheika, so much so that it was easy to "stick at it" in tough times. "The Brumbies are a good side and obviously are going to defend well, but we just spoke about sticking to what we want to do," he said. "Obviously there were a few tired legs at the end, and a bit more space, so it worked for us."
Dennis was particularly pleased with the win because: "We were probably off in a few areas, exiting our own half was a bit off again, obviously our lineout struggled a bit, but to have that go on and still win the match is really pleasing. It's something within the club, that winning attitude, and we hung in there and got a great result."
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika paid tribute to the strength of his players' character, saying "we've had some big physical games the last couple of weeks, and maybe there's a bit of wear and tear starting to come in, but you can't doubt the lads' commitment to the cause; they played right to the end of the match, and we got it right towards the end and were able to score a few tries".
Cheika also explained that Barnes offered "a bit of versatility ... because he gave us a little bit of another kicking option". Cheika said: "Hornie was doing fine but they were coming up so hard in defence that we needed to have just the doubt that [Barnes] might [kick], and then we were able to run once we got to the middle of the field and get the number s down in those situations because they go so hard at the ruck; and it worked for us for a few tries."
New South Wales Waratahs celebrated a hard-fought won over the Brumbies (video available only in Australia)