A last-minute penalty goal from Bernard Foley saw the Waratahs win the 2014 Super Rugby title, beating the Crusaders 33-32 on Saturday.
A last-minute penalty from Bernard Foley saw the Waratahs win the 2014 Super Rugby title, prevailing 33-32 against the Crusaders on Saturday.
Foley was the hero for the Sydney side as his 45 metre strike – following Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw having been caught offside at ruck time – secured the 'Tahs a first competition triumph.
It was deserved as the regular-season winners held off a spirited Crusaders fightback in the second-half after leading handsomely early on.
Indeed the first-half was befitting of the occasion as the home side shot out of the blocks in the style they have been known for in 2014. It was clear they were not overawed by the occasion and also the opponents in front of them, who had twice beaten them in away Super Rugby Finals.
Foley was key to their gameplan as while the forwards laid the platform and Kurtley Beale offered so much with ball in hand, the number ten was cool in front of goal, slotting five penalty goals that helped send the 'Tahs into the dressing rooms 20-13 ahead of the New Zealanders.
His first three points came with three minutes on the clock when Crusaders openside flanker Matt Todd was offside. It was a prelude to something truly special in Sydney.
Michael Cheika gave the impression pre-game that he wanted his side to relax and play their usual game and an outstanding try from Adam Ashley-Cooper was evidence of just that. The centre had Beale to thank though as he set Foley on his way down the left wing before finding the number thirteen with recycled ball, who hit a wonderful angle to take the lead up to eight points with five minutes gone. This time Foley was unsuccessful off the tee.
Foley would find his range on eleven minutes after solid tackling from Jacques Potgieter led to Dominic Bird's spillage catching the Crusaders offside. And he was at it again four minutes later for 14-0 when Wycliff Palu's hit on McCaw led to Andy Ellis being offside.
The game was continuing in top gear at this point as the 'Tahs were going at almost a point a minute. But one would never write off the 'Saders and they duly came to the party when a counter attack saw Todd get over for 14-7 despite a last ditch effort from Ashley-Cooper.
Foley would respond soon with three following a ruck offence from Kieran Read and while Palu was off for a concussion test, Hooper was penalised for not entering through the gate so up stepped Slade to make it 17-10. Slade was kicking due to Carter having hobbled off.
Slade was outstanding from then on though as he took on the extra responsibility with both hands, knocking over a penalty on 36 minutes before Foley again stepped up for a 20-13 half-time scoreline. Those Waratahs points came due to prop Wyatt Crockett being offside.
It took the Crusaders just two minutes to level matters following the interval however as from an outstanding Owen Franks offload, lethal finisher Nemani Nadolo set off for the try-line down the left wing. His TMO approved finish, despite a worrying moment in grounding, was backed up by Slade's superb sideline extras to tie what was turning into a classic final.
On 49 minutes the Crusaders had taken the lead for the first time in the contest as Slade again was on-target. But a high tackle from Nadolo soon after on Alofa Alofa led to Foley having the chance to level. He was off the mark though as the visitors remained in front.
Foley would get another opportunity soon after when hooker Corey Flynn, playing in his 151st and final Super Rugby appearance, left a stray boot in the ruck. This time the fly-half was successful from an easier kicking position to make it a 23-23 ball game in Sydney.
The Waratahs seemed to have weathered something of a Crusader storm at this point and sustained pressure in the visitors 22 led to that man Ashley-Cooper grabbing his brace, fending off tighthead prop Franks en route to a critical score in the game on the left wing. Foley's excellent conversion put his side four points in front with sixteen minutes to go.
But as time wore on the big game qualities of the Crusaders began to worry the 61,000 spectators at ANZ Stadium, with two more Slade penalties coming in the 67th and 75th minute leaving the Waratahs with a one-point deficit with the dying embers remaining.
However, they only needed one chance and when McCaw was penalised for offside at a ruck by referee Craig Joubert, up stepped Foley from right on his range to send over what proved to be the match and title-winning penalty before they ran down the clock.
Man of the match: Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley all stood out for the Waratahs but two superb tries from Adam Ashley-Cooper sees him take this award. Another outstanding performance from him to cap a fine individual and team season.
Moment of the match: Less than a minute remaining and with a kick to win the Super Rugby title, up stepped Bernard Foley from 45 metres. It was a penalty at the end of his kicking range but he found the juice to make the required distance. The rest is history.
Tries: Ashley-Cooper 2
Pen: Foley 7
Tries: Todd, Nadolo
Con: Carter, Slade
Pen: Slade 6
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitch Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbon, 23 Peter Betham.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufau, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)