The NSW Waratahs have fallen just short of stunning the reining Super Rugby AU champions, with a Will Harrison conversion missing wide in the 83rd minute for a 24-22 score at full-time.
In a perfect night for rugby at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Waratahs ran out with emotions high after parting ways with their former coach Rob Penney but bolstered by the return of their inspirational skipper Jake Gordon.
Tom Banks got the away side off to a dream start taking advantage of some sloppy defence from the Waratahs, bursting through three defenders to score in the corner in the 4th minute. Noah Lolesio missed the conversion to leave the scores 5-0.
The Waratahs almost hit back straight away with hooker Dave Porecki almost grabbing a five pointer but knocked on over the line in the 12th minute.
The Brumbies extended their lead through Tom Wright who snuck through in the corner in the 14th minute. Lolesio again missed the conversion leaving the score 10-0.
Will Harrison punished some ill-discipline with a penalty in the 17th minute to get the Waratahs on the board before Harry Johnson-Holmes crashed over from short range allowing Harrison to level the scores at 10-10.
The Brumbies finished off the half strongly scoring two more tries through Andy Muirhead and Folau Fainga’a.
Muirhead scored in the 26th minute finishing off a well-executed set piece move receiving a long cut out ball from Lolesio, before the Brumbies returned to the rolling maul with Folau Fainga’a dotting down in the 34th minute. Lolesio kicked both conversions to leave the scores 24-10 at the break.
The opening stages of the second half turned into an arm wrestle with both teams having their chances.
Tom Wright was denied a try in the corner by the TMO with his foot just in touch as he put the ball down, while Will Harris knocked on just short of the Brumbies line after some sustained pressure from the Waratahs deep in enemy territory.
The Waratahs found their mojo and dominated the last twenty minutes of the match and were rewarded in the 65th minute when Jeremy Williams charged down Ryan Lonergan’s box kick allowing Lalakai Foketi to clean up the ball and offload to Harrison to score under the sticks. Harrison kicked the conversion to make it a one score game at 24-17.
The Waratahs desperately searched for a result and scored in the final play of the game in the 82nd minute with James Ramm scoring in the corner after the backs spread the ball down the short side off a 5m scrum.
Will Harrison was left with the daunting task of trying to send the game to Super Time with a sideline conversion attempt but unfortunately missed wide.
Despite the result it was the Waratahs best performance of the season and showed the team can match it with anyone in the competition.
The Waratahs have the Bye in Round 8 and will travel to Perth to face the Force in Round 9.