Waratahs fightback sees them through to the semi-finals

Waratahs fightback
Kurtley Beale pulled the strings of an unlikely Waratahs fightback. Image: Paddynapper, Wikimedia Commons

The Waratahs-Highlanders match was the game of the round in the Super Rugby quarter-finals. The Highlanders looked to have the game in the bag, leading 23-6 with 30 minutes to go, but 10 minutes of a magical Waratahs fightback proved to be enough for the New South Welshmen to steal the game in front of their home crowd.

The local side started well enough, taking the points from a penalty after just 3 minutes despite not sending their kick off the required 10 metres. The Highlanders quickly struck back, but the Waratahs still managed to lead 6-3 after 15 minutes. However, their defence was causing a lot of concern, and the New Zealanders struck. Two more tries and another penalty goal before half time saw the visitors take a 23-6 lead at the break.

In the second half the Waratahs defence was more desperate, and stiffer. The Highlanders looked to pick up where they left off, going on the attack straight away. This time, however, NSW stood firm on their own line with Nick Phipps leading the way. They eventually forced an error, when Taqele Naiyarovoro stole an intercept and raced 50 metres up field. That passage of play led to Sekope Kepu racing for the line, with two high tackles and a yellow card for the Highlanders coming before he was stopped.

With the Highlanders down to 14 men for 10 minutes and the Sydney side sniffing blood, the Waratahs fightback was on. Kurtley Beale was masterful at 12, setting up Bernard Foley (who finished with a personal haul of 25 points) for 2 tries and Israel Folau for a third in just 6 minutes of game play. Shortly after the Highlanders returned to 15 players Foley kicked another penalty to build a 7 point lead.

The Highlanders had the chance to take the win, camping on the Waratahs line again towards the end of the game and getting a numbers advantage of their own when Paddy Ryan was yellow-carded with 10 minutes to go. They were unable to score again, however, and despite only looking like the better team for 10 minutes the Waratahs fightback was enough to book them a semi-final spot.