Folau hat-trick gets Tahs over line
Israel Folau scored a hat-trick as the Waratahs got their Super Rugby campaign off to a winning start.
Folau's three tries contributed to a 43-21 bonus-point win over the Western Force in a scrappy affair in Sydney on Sunday and puts them on top of the Australian conference.
The positive will be the eight tries, six to the Tahs.
The negatives will be the high error count and the excessive number of penalties – 14 against the Waratahs, who could regard themselves as fortunate to have had only one player sent to the sin bin, and eight to the Force.
The scrums were a royal mess from the outset – not a single scrum in the first half was completed the first time, with resets, free kicks and even a penalty the order of the day.
The error count in the game was also alarmingly high – with the Force appearing to be sleep-walking at times.
The Alofa Alofa try on the half-time hooter was a perfect example of the Force's lethargic approach. A Bernard Foley penalty attempt hit the upright, with three Force players just ambling towards the bouncing ball, when Alofa pounced for a five-pointer.
While handling errors also littered that Tahs' first-half effort, they tidied up in the second half to take the game away from the visitors – turning an 11-point (22-11) half-time lead into a comprehensive 22-point win.
Big lock Will Skelton and an burly loose forward Wycliff Palu put produced high workrates that saw the Tahs pack get an edge over the Force forwards.
However, it was in the backline – where the running skills of Folau and Alofa, along with the direction provided by flyhalf Bernard Foley, made the difference.
Prop Paddy Ryan made the metres before scrumhalf Nick Phipps sent the ball wide from the ruck, passing through the hands of Foley, Kurtley Beale, Will Skelton and Folau, who finished the job under the posts.
Foley missed the conversion in what would turn out to be an inconsistent match with the boot.
The Waratahs led 5-0 until Force flyhalf Zack Holmes put the visitors on the board with his second penalty goal attempt.
Foley made it 8-5 to NSW in the 17th minute, before Folau scored to notch his first double in Super Rugby. Foley converted to make it 15-3.
The Force woke up after that and made the Waratahs pay for some ill-discipline, narrowing the gap to 6-15, before Cummins scored the visitors' first try. Holmes missed the conversion to keep the visitors four points behind and well and truly in the hunt with five minutes to go in the half.
The Waratahs hit back before the break with the most unlikely of tries to the hungriest of young wings.
Alofa, the 22-year-old West Harbour rookie whose startling pre-season form earned him a place in the starting side, chased down a shot at goal from Foley that bounced off the upright, pouncing on the ball as it bounced between three ambling Force players.
Foley made sure his next attempt went through the posts and the Waratahs ran into the sheds 22-11 leaders.
The Waratahs felt the heat of the referee's whistle when Rohan Hoffman pulled out the yellow card, sending off Paddy Ryan for repeated infringements.
NSW second row forward Kane Douglas ran over in the 58th minute to make it 29-14 with 22 minutes to go.
The Force were not ready to concede, a Cummins intercept on his own side's 22 ended up with a try to Kyle Godwin moments later at the other end, and Holmes nailed the conversion to put the Force within eight points of an upset.
But the Waratahs were having none of it.
Matt Carraro busted through the middle two minutes later to give Folau an easy triple, and Foley kicked the Waratahs to a 36-21 lead.
Carraro, in his first Super Rugby game since returning from France last year, struck again with a straight run and pass to Beale, who scored in the 71st minute.
Foley converted to seal a 43-21 victory.
The final 10 minutes were marred by injury to the Force's South African loose forward Brynard Stander, who was stretchered off.
Man of the match: You can look at forwards Wycliff Palu, Kane Douglas and Will Skelton, but Israel Folau's finishing ability and hat-trick earns him our award.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Folau 3, Alofa, Douglas, Beale
Cons: Foley 5
For the Western Force:
Tries: Cummins, Godwin
Pens: Holmes 3
Yellow card: Paddy Ryan (Waratahs, 43 – repeated infringements at the breakdown)
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles/Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro/Cam Crawford.
Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Hugh McMeniman, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Brynard Stander, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Sias Ebersohn.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)