The Waratahs held off a spirited Cheetahs fightback to claim a 23-19 Super 14 victory in Sydney on Friday.
Leading by thirteen points at the break it looked like the Waratahs would kick on for a comfortable victory, however the Cheetahs hit back well and made the hosts work for their win. Despite a losing bonus point the Cheetahs are still winless in 2008.
On the basis of their first half efforts, which included twenty-five missed tackles, it is difficult to see where they will get a win from. Although on the evidence of the second half one senses it is only a matter of time before Naka Drotské's men claim that elusive first win.
For whilst they will want to forget the first half, in which they were lucky not to have been further behind, they looked a different team after the break. They started to effect their tackles at the point of contact, passes were sticking and slowly they began to take control of the game. The problem was that eventually they were forced to play catch up and didn't have enough time to complete the job.
That said, the Waratahs will have been cursing themselves had they let this game slip, for truth be known they should have been out of sight at the break. They wasted two clear cut chances in the opening ten minutes, Kurtley Beale dropping the ball over the line in the opening minute the worst of the mistakes.
For all their endeavour the hosts only had a Beale penalty to their name after twenty minutes, although it could have been so much more. With the game in the balance, and the Cheetahs starting to enjoy a bit of possession, the Waratahs finally struck against the run of play. Jacques-Louis Potgieter looked to run a move down the narrow side, only to see Phil Waugh snap up his pass and feed Lachlan Turner to race away for the opening try.
Despite being winless this season the Cheetahs have always shown plenty of heart, and having had one claim for a try turned down by the TMO they didn't have to wait long to get back into the game. Heinrich Brussow did the damage with a burst from the base of the scrum and David de Villiers was on hand to finish the move in the corner, Meyer Bosman adding a fine conversion.
But no sooner had the Cheetahs got themselves a footing in the game than they allowed the Waratahs to pull away again. Sam Norton-Knight, playing his first game of the season, sent the side-stepping Rocky Elsom over within a minute of the Cheetahs' score. Beale converted, and added a penalty two minutes later to give his side a comfortable cushion going into the break.
The second half was less of a spectacle as both sides came up with errors that ruined the flow of the game. The stop-start nature of the game suited the Cheetahs more and they asserted themselves with more conviction, although they had to rely on a Waratahs mistake for their second try.
With the Waratahs firmly on attack a loose Josh Valentine pass was hacked forward by Jongi Nokwe. The flying wing gave chase up towards half way, with Elsom for company. A second hack ahead pitted the two in a straight race for the line, which Nokwe won to give his side hope.
Buoyed by Nokwe's try, as well as the Waratahs' sudden inability to control the game, the Cheetahs pressed hard and were rewarded with another try after seventy minutes. Eddie Fredericks combined with Nokwe to send Bosman into the twenty-two. Quick ball to Potgieter enabled the fly-half to send replacement lock Phillip van der Merwe crashing over. Bosman's conversion made it a one-point ball game with ten to play.
Sadly for the Cheetahs that was as close as they got to a win. Beale slotted his third penalty with five minutes to go and from there the Waratahs controlled the ball and wound the clock down to continue their charge for a play-off place.
Man of the Match: Heinrich Brussow was the pick of the Cheetahs line-up, busy in attack and defence but lacking in support more often than not. For the Waratahs the back row showed up well but it was hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau who stole the show. Dynamic in open play and a constant threat at the breakdown he was the heartbeat of the home pack.
Moment of the Match: It has to be Meyer Bosman's missed conversion in the second half. Had he knocked it over then the Cheetahs would have taken the lead with their third try, as it was they never got their noses in front and ultimately paid the price.
Villian of the Match: Not a sniff of trouble, everyone was too busy playing rugby.
Tries: Turner, Elsom
Cons: Beale 2
Pens: Beale 3
Tries: De Villiers, Nokwe, Van der Merwe
Cons: Bosman 2
Waratahs: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Will Caldwell, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Rob Horne
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 Hendrik Meyer, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Darron Nel, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Rory Duncan (c), 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Phillip van der Merwe, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Falie Oelschig, 21 Conrad Barnard, 22 JW Jonker
Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Brent Murray (New Zealand), Damian Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Assessor: Wayne Erickson (Australia)