Super Rugby Trials: Waratahs & Folau Off To A Winning Start
by Brendan Bradford –
Israel Folau wasted no time making his mark in rugby by scoring the Waratahs’ first try after barely ten minutes of their trial match against the Melbourne Rebels in Hobart on Saturday. The dynamic 23-year old spent time on the wing, at fullback and in the centres in his first appearance in the Sky-Blue jersey and ended the day with two tries and a yellow card as the Waratahs won 24-16.
“I couldn’t ask for a better start to my rugby career,” said Folau after the match.
“Now it’s done and dusted I’ve got to look forward to more next week. It was certainly very enjoyable playing my first rugby game and I can get a lot of confidence out of finishing this game well. It was pretty challenging and that was what I expected. I got a bit of everything today, I got yellow carded as well, but I’m looking forward to next week.”
After notching up his first try, Folau set up another for fellow debutant Cam Crawford before receiving a yellow card for a breakdown infringement in the second half and finishing strongly with a try in the last play of the game.
Northern Suburbs back-rower, AJ Gilbert – one of ten un-contracted players invited to trial by coach, Michael Cheika – was named Man-of-the-Match in a Waratahs side packed with players making their New South Wales debuts.
In a tight contest, Randwick youngster Pete Samu joined Folau and Crawford on the scoresheet while Ged Robinson and Tom English dotted down for the Rebels in front of a crowd of almost 10,000 people.
In other trial matches this weekend, former Wallaby winger Clyde Rathbone made a triumphant, try-scoring return to rugby as the Brumbies held off a fast finishing Western Force side to win 20-18 in Darwin on Friday night.
The Queensland Reds and Auckland Blues put on an entertaining game in Toowoomba on Saturday with the Wallaby-laden Reds coming out on top 41-35 in a match featuring 12 tries.
In Taupo, the defending champion Waikato Chiefs dispatched the Otago Highlanders 36-14 in a match notable for the Highlanders debut of former All Blacks and Crusaders legend Brad Thorn.
The Wellington Hurricanes did their best to put Corey Jane’s season-ending knee injury behind them by edging out the Crusaders 27-26 in Timaru on Saturday while the Cheetahs defeated the Stormers by the same margin and the Bulls downed the Lions 38-32 in South Africa overnight.