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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 18 April 2021

Cheika guides Waratahs to first Super Rugby title in thrilling final

The ‘Tahs and the Crusaders played out a memorable clash in Sydney.

Waratahs 33

Crusaders 32

Australia New Zealand Super Rugby Source: AP/Press Association Images

THE WARATAHS CLAIMED their first Super Rugby title after a last-minute Bernard Foley penalty ensured a 33-32 win over the Crusaders in a sensational final in Sydney.

Out-half Foley’s 45-metre place kick just cleared the crossbar at the death, and after the Australian franchise defended the Crusaders’ restart and cleared the ball into touch, the celebrations kicked off for Michael Cheika’s side.

The former Leinster coach’s men got off to a stunning start, with their powerful ball carriers eating up the metres in attack. Inside centre Kurtley Beale’s gorgeous long pass sent Foley scampering down the left-hand sideline and shortly after Beale slipped midfield partner Adam Ashley-Cooper over for a 4th-minute try wide on the right.

With Foley also slotting three penalties inside the opening 15 minutes, the ‘Tahs found themselves into a an early 14-0 advantage.

Todd Blackadder’s Crusaders finally clicked into life thereafter, responding with a superb counter-attacking try of their own. The sublime Kieran Read featured prominently twice, helping to send flanker Matt Todd clear to beat the last defender.

The Waratahs team celebrate winning The Waratahs celebrate their first Super Rugby title. Source: Photosport/Paul Seiser/INPHO

The Kiwis gradually wrestled the momentum from the Waratahs grasp as Colin Slade and Foley swapped penalties to leave the game at 20-13 in the Australians’ favour at the break.

With the Crusaders’ scrum enjoying dominance after half time, the ‘Tahs suddenly found themselves slipping behind.

First, the prolific Nemani Nadolo crossed in the left-hand corner, with the TMO ruling that the giant Fijian had legally touched down, despite slow-mo replays suggesting that his foot had slid into touch.

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Slade converted expertly and then added another penalty to edge the Crusaders 23-20 in front on the 48-minute mark. Foley replied with three points, but Slade was on target two minutes later to nullify that score.

The Waratahs fought their way back into the Crusaders’ 22 and a superb multi-phase passage of team play was rewarded in the 62nd minute as Ashley-Cooper darted past two defenders to touch down for his second try.

Kane Douglas tackled by Corey Flynn and Richie McCaw Kane Douglas was superb in the engine room for the Waratahs. Source: Photosport/Paul Seiser/INPHO

Foley’s conversion sent the ‘Tahs 30-26 in front, but the Crusaders refused to give up on their ambitions of claiming an eighth Super Rugby title.

Slade kicked a 67th-minute penalty and was then on target in the 75th after the Waratahs’ aggressive rush defence crept offside under their own posts. The meant that with less than five minutes remaining, Blackadder’s men were 32-20 in front.

The winning mentality that Cheika has built among the Waratahs was once again evident in their response in the dying minutes, as they went on the attack once again, leading to Richie McCaw conceding a crucial final penalty.

Foley did the business from the very limit of his range to reward the superb improvements Cheika has led in Sydney this season.

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Murray Kinsella

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