The Waratahs have beaten the Rebels by another hefty margin tonight, scoring six tries to win by 22 points. It finished 19-41 at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
Possession was the key asset in their victory with 67% of the ball in the first half, and 74% by the end of the match. Limiting the Rebels to only 15 seconds of time inside the Waratahs 22 in the first half was another major contributing factor to building their first half lead.
The Rebels looked like a much inferior team for the majoirty of the night. The Waratahs controlled the game for most of the 80 minutes, letting slip only one Rebels try and a small handful of penalties.
Kurtley Beale was one of the main standouts for New South Wales, and with Bernard Foley playing well below his best (besides exquisitely setting up the first try), Beale was allowed to stand out in controlling the play at the heart of the backline.
Former Rebel Nick Phipps was also impressive at scrumhalf for the Waratahs, while his opposite number, Ben Meehan, who was making his starting fifteen debut for the Rebels, was equally impressive in an otherwise poor Melbourne team.
Israel Folau scored his 10th try for the season, which edges him closer to Joe Roff (1997) and Rico Gear's (2005) records for most tries scored by an individual in a Super Rugby season with 15.
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The Waratahs started the match at a high tempo, winning two penalties inside the first six minutes and converting one.
A try to Rob Horne after ten minutes showed why he and Foley were worthy picks in Ewen McKenzie’s Wallabies squad this week. A dummy from Foley followed by a blind pass around the back to an overlapping Horne opened the gap in the Rebels defence, and a nice line let him through to score the first try.
The intensity and pressure increased dramatically by the home team following ten minutes, and despite the Waratahs having almost 77% possession in the first quarter of the game, it became tougher to score due to the Rebels solid defence.
Persistence from both teams -- Waratahs in attack and Rebels in defence -- meant one had to crack first, and unfortunately for the Rebels it was a small lapse in concentration which allowed Adam Ashley-Cooper to find the gap and lunge his way over the line for his second try in two weeks.
A shocking penalty kick from Foley after the halftime siren which slammed into the upright meant that the Waratahs blew a potential ten-point lead at the main break. The Rebels scores all came from penalties, as the halftime margin was 16-9 to the ‘Tahs.
The Rebels had more luck in the possession count at the start of the second half, but the sting had gone out of the game and it was the Waratahs turn to defend. A try to New South Wales off a Rebels-fed scrum seemingly ended whatever the Rebels were building as the scores began to blow out to a 12-point margin; 24-12.
The attacks continued to come from the Waratahs, but some luck arrived for the Rebels when a poor pass from Folau allowed Telusa Veainu to swoop on the loose ball and storm his way to the other end of the field, getting the Rebels back into the match at 19-24.
The Waratahs replied only minutes later. A break from Phipps, a flick to Foley, and and offload to Beale finished off a slick bit of play from the sky blues.
Good passing from the Waratahs exposed further holes in the Melbourne defence, allowing Folau through to score his record-equalling 10th try of the season, and the Waratahs fifth for the game with 10 minutes to go.
The final try came from substitute Brendan McKibbin who dove over the line after a ruck from only inches out with a few minutes remaining.
The six tries for the Waratahs firmly secured a bonus point win, and it puts them up into first position in the Australian conference, while they also move up two spots into second position on the overall standings. The Rebels remain in 11th position with just their four wins and five bonus points.
The Waratahs will travel to Taranaki, New Zealand next week to play regining champions and currently 3rd-placed Chiefs, while the Rebels travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies in the final round before the month-long break for the international Tests.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What's the wash up from this weekends clash? What do the Rebels need to improve on? Are the Waratahs the real deal to go all the way this season?