The Waratahs continued with their fine recent form when they claimed a 29-8 bonus-point victory over the Bulls in Sydney on Saturday.
The 2014 champions outscored their visitors four tries to one which means they move to the top of the Australian Conference. Daryl Gibson’s side have 30 points from 10 matches and they are a point ahead of the Brumbies, who have played one more game.
The victory came at a major cost for the Waratahs though as they lost new Wasps signing Kurtley Beale to a knee injury as early as the first minute when he fell awkwardly after competing for a high ball.
Beale was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital for scans to assess the damage to his leg, with Australia’s Test series against England less than a month away.
The opening half was a tight affair although both sides stayed true to their attacking instincts. However, a plethora of errors meant that we had to wait until the 35th minute for the opening points.
Both teams were also guilty of conceding far too many penalties during the first half. The home side had three opportunities to open their account with shots at goal during this period, but on each occasion they opted to kick for touch with no reward.
The Waratahs eventually took the lead in the 35th minute when Nick Phipps – who was superb throughout – burst through three tackles close to the visitors’ try line before diving over.
Bernard Foley added the extras before Tian Schoeman slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time which meant the visitors led 7-3 at the break.
Phipps continued to impress and shortly after the restart he broke around the fringe of a ruck, close to the visitors’ try line, and drew in the defence before get a pass out to Dean Mumm, who had an easy run-in for his side’s second try.
Foley converted again and for the next 10 minutes the Waratahs did most of the attacking although they couldn’t convert their dominance into points.
Another three-pointer from the kicking tee in the 56th minute by Foley meant the hosts led 17-3 before Phipps sealed the win with his second try in the 70th minute after running onto a pass from Israel Folau inside the Bulls’ 22.
The Bulls struck back shortly afterwards when Dries Swanepoel got over for their only try, after Jesse Kriel did well in the build-up.
The visitors suffered a setback shortly before the end though when Jannes Kirsten was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a maul close to his own line.
And the Waratahs made their numerical advantage count when, from the resulting penalty, the ball was shifted to Angus Ta’avao, who secured the bonus point for his side after diving over under the posts.
Tries: Phipps 2, Mumm, Ta’avao
Cons: Foley 3
Yellow Card: Kirsten
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan/Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro
Bulls: 15 SP Marais, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dries Swanepoel
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, James Leckie
TMO: George Ayoub