Depleted Blues give Waratahs a reality check
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The depleted Blues have dealt the Waratahs a reality check with a last-gasp 20-17 Super Rugby Pacific victory in Sydney.
A drop goal from fullback Zarn Sullivan a minute after the full-time hooter sounded secured the Blues a record 13th consecutive victory and consigned the Waratahs to sixth spot on the ladder.
The defeat leaves the Waratahs needing to travel to New Zealand for a knockout quarterfinal against the Chiefs next Saturday.
They had been hoping to play the Brumbies much closer to home in Canberra.
Already assured of top spot ahead of the finals, the Blues rested all but one of their starters from last week’s equally thrilling win over the Brumbies.
But even without superstars like All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, impressive league convert Roger Tuivasa-Scheck and skipper Dalton Papalii, the Blues still had enough strike power to deny the Tahs a third Kiwi scalp in a single season for the first time in seven years.
The Blues kept the Waratahs scoreless in the first half even while reduced to 13 players after back-rowers Akira Ioane and Adrian Choat were both shown yellow cards in the space of a minute.
The visitors, in fact, posted the only points of the half while two men short, Jock McKenzie’s penalty goal three minutes before the break giving the Blues a 3-0 lead.
Two tries in six minutes from wing Mark Nawaqanitawase midway through the second half shot the Waratahs out to a 14-3 lead at Leichhardt Oval.
But replies from replacement Cameron Suafoa and lock Luke Romano put the Blues back in front before a 78th-minute penalty goal from Tahs flyhalf Tane Edmed locked the game up.
Sullivan had the final say as the Blues clinched a quarter-final date in Auckland with either the Highlanders or Western Force.
Tries: Nawaqanitawase 2
Cons: Edmed 2
Tries: Suafoa, Romano
Cons: Sullivan 2
Waratahs: 15 Ben Donaldson, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Charlie Gamble, 5 Ned Hanigan, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Archer Holz, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Jeremy Williams, 21 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Jamie Roberts.
Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 13 Tamati Tua, 12 Corey Evans, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Jock McKenzie, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Taine Plumtree, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Anton Segner, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Luke Romano (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Jordan Lay.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Sam Darry, 20 Cameron Suafoa, 21 Akira Ioane, 22 Taufa Funaki, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Angus Gardiner; Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie