Super Rugby Trials: Another For Folau As Blues Tip Tahs At The Death
by Brendan Bradford –
It’s still early days but Waratahs fans should be getting excited as Israel Folau scored another try in his second trial match and set up two of Tom Kingston’s three as the Sydney-siders lost 40-36 at the death against the Auckland Blues in Whangarei on Saturday.
Despite dotting down six times, the Waratahs were overcome in their second trial match by a try after the fulltime siren to Blues back-rower Peter Saili but the real story is Folau’s great run of form heading into his first Super Rugby season.
The Waratahs trailed 12-7 at the break but a Jed Holloway runaway try and the introduction of Folau off the bench turned the game for the visitors in the second half. Folau linked twice with Kingston as the Tahs went out to a 24-12 lead but the Blues – who are a far improved side from their woeful 2012 season – hit back with a double to dynamic winger Waisake Naholo to take a 33-31 lead with ten minutes remaining.
Kingston looked to have sealed an impressive win with his third five-pointer as fulltime neared before Saili burrowed over from close range to steal it for the home side.
‘‘A few blokes played well today,” said Waratahs coach Michael Cheika after the game.
”Kingston played well, Israel Folau had another good game and got a lot of touches. I have been training them really hard so there is bound to be a bit of flow on. Considering what we’ve put into them, I was pretty happy with the condition they came out on to the field in.”
Northern Suburbs’ Cam Crawford grabbed his second try in as many matches meaning five of the six Waratahs tries were scored by outside backs. Although they lost, that kind of form gives Cheika a good selection headache as Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner are also vying for backline spots.
“What I don’t like is losing, we should have won, but this was a good sign and we’ve still got seven or eight international players back home,” said Cheika while Blues coach Sir John Kirwan sang Folau’s praises.
“The more games he can play now the better and he looks pretty special,” the Blues mentor told Fox News.
“We just needed to contain him a wee bit more, but we’ll learn from that and it’s good having those types of guys playing against us in the preseason.”
Folau wasn’t out of place against a flashy Blues side packed with dangerous runners and showed his pace, lethal step and distribution skills in his half on the paddock.
Openside flanker Michael Hooper turned in a strong performance in his first outing in a Waratahs jersey and it was his turnover that led to Crawford’s first-half try.
The Waratahs now return to Sydney to play the Crusaders in a final trial match this Thursday at Allianz Stadium.
In other trial matches this weekend, the Reds surrendered an 8-0 lead to lose 20-8 to the Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast on Friday while the Western Force earned a confidence boosting 46-0 win over a Tongan Selection XV in Mandurah. The Brumbies will head into their opening match against the Reds on a high after recording their second trial win with a 38-7 defeat of the ACT XV on Friday. The Melbourne Rebels led the Hurricanes 19-0 in the first half before the classy Wellington outfit fought back to edge a 47-45 win in Geelong on Saturday.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph selected a near full-strength side including All Blacks Ma’a Nonu, Aaron Smith, Brad Thorn, Hosea Gear and Tony Woodcock against a rusty looking Crusaders team that was without Dan Carter and Kieran Read in Oamaru on Saturday. The mismatch was reflected in the Highlanders’ 38-21 victory but the Waratahs can expect a much tougher match against the Crusaders who will bring their big guns to Sydney this Thursday.
In South Africa, the Bulls beat the Cheetahs 32-10; the Stormers flogged Currie Cup side, Boland 57-0; the Lions beat the Southern Kings 41-31 and the Sharks trounced club side Leopards 71-8.