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Tahs suffer heartbreaking loss at the hands of Highlanders

FRIDAY WRAP: The Waratahs have crashed back to earth with a crushing 21-23 Super Rugby Pacific loss to the Highlanders in Sydney.

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Last-start hero Tane Edmed cursed himself after missing a 39-metre penalty-goal attempt, from just left of the posts, after the siren that would have won the game for the Waratahs.

Edmed had slotted seven from seven in NSW’s shock 37-24 round-two win over the defending champion Crusaders, before landing another four goals on Friday night.

But he couldn’t deliver under pressure, leaving the Waratahs – in their own words – “back to square one” after failing to back up the huge win in Melbourne.

The Waratahs found themselves somewhat unluckily trailing through an early opportunistic – and converted – try to Highlanders centre Rhys Patchell and two penalty goals from Sam Gilbert.

But strike weapons Mark Nawaqanitawase and Izaia Perese and in-form playmaker Tane Edmed thrust the hosts back in to the contest in the crucial 10 minutes before halftime.

First, Perese and Nawaqanitawase combined brilliantly for the Tahs’ opening try on the half hour.

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Perese released Nawaqanitawase down his right wing with a clever flick pass, then he backed up to pounce on the Sydney Roosters-bound Wallabies utility’s pinpoint in-field kick to score the Waratahs’ only try of the first half.

Edmed slotted a penalty goal after the halftime siren to earn the Tahs their 16-13 lead at the break.

Alas, after Gilbert drew the home side level in the 57th minute, powerhouse wing* Tanielu Tele’a bumped off Waratahs pair Triston Reilly and Joey Walton to put the Highlanders in front.

Reilly redeemed with the break and key pass for Max Jorgensen’s 67th-minute try to put the Waratahs back in front.

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Edmed’s subsequent miss will likely haunt him – and no doubt send a message to new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, who is on the hunt for a cool playmaker capable of delivering when the heat is on in 2024.

*The Rebels have made it back-to-back Super Rugby Pacific wins, holding on to beat Moana Pasifika 29-23 in Waikato.

Behind a bruising display from their forward pack, the Rebels withstood a second half fightback on Friday and pinched the lead on 67 minutes through a Lachie Anderson try.

Andrew Kellaway, who was enormous after shifting from fullback to a wing, iced the contest by putting Lukas Ripley through to score two minutes from time.

After last weekend’s 48-34 win against the Western Force, any memories of the Rebels’ uncompetitive first-up display against the ACT Brumbies are a thing of the past as they soar up the table in the early rounds.

Riding high from their second half surge against the Force, Melbourne looked on track for a comfortable win when they raced to an early 19-3 lead.

After shifting to a wing to get fullback Jake Strachan into the lineup, Kellaway only needed five minutes to get on the scoresheet after using his pace to cross off the back of brilliant early field position.

With their pack well on top early, the Rebels went 12-0 ahead thanks to a crafty short-side sneak from scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens, with a brutal Vaiolini Ekuasi run extending the margin after a Moana penalty goal.

But the longer the contest went, the more the Pasifika outfit found their feet, with legendary All Black Julian Savea instrumental in all that went right for them.

He powered his way close to the line for lock Allan Craig to get Moana’s first try, before scoring himself to claim the record for the most tries in Super Rugby Pacific history.

Savea, who’s scored 61 career tries, was an off-season addition for Moana after being released by the Hurricanes.

Moana played the last 15 minutes of the contest a player down, with Craig and then Jacob Norris spending time in the sin bin.

That allowed wing Anderson to burrow over off the back of brilliant maul surge, before Kellaway and Ripley combined to seal it.

All Friday’s scores and scorers:

Moana Pasifika 23-29 Rebels

For Moana Pasifika:
Tries: Craig, Savea
Cons: Havili 2
Pens: Havili 3

For Rebels:
Tries: Kellaway, Louwrens, Ekuasi, Anderson, Ripley
Cons: Gordon 2

Teams:

Moana Pasifika: 15 Danny Toala, 14 Pepesana Patafilo, 13 Henry Taefu, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 William Havili, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Sione Havili Talitui (captain), 6 Jacob Norris, 5 Allan Craig, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sione Mafielo, 2 Samiuela Moli, 1 Abraham Pole
Replacements: 16 Tomasi Maka, 17 Sateki Latu, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Ola Tauelangi, 20 Irie Papuni, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Kyren Taumoefolau

Rebels: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Filipo Daugunu, 12 David Feliuai, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Rob Leota (captain), 7 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Josh Canham, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon
Replacements: 16 Ethan Dobbins, 17 Isaac Kailea, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Daniel Maiava, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Glen Vaihu, 23 Lukas Ripley

Waratahs 21-23 Highlanders

For Waratahs:
Tries: Perese, Jorgensen
Cons: Edmed
Pens: Edmed 3

For Highlanders:
Tries: Patchell, Tele’a
Cons: Gilbert 2
Pens: Gilbert 3

Teams:

Waratahs: 15 Max Jorgensen, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Triston Reilly, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Julian Heaven, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Miles Amatosero, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Harry Wilson, 23 Mosese Tuipulotu

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Nikora Broughton, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Max Hicks, 4 Fabian Holland, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (captain)
Replacements: 16 Ricky Jackson, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Sean Withy, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 James Arscott, 22 Ajay Faleafaga, 23 Jonah Lowe

 

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