Match report - Waratahs battle their way to bonus point victory

Sat, May 20, 2023, 12:17 PM
Waratahs Media
by Waratahs Media

The NSW Waratahs battled for their 32-18 bonus point victory over Fijian Drua

Darren Coleman's side now makes it four in a row in front of 14,562 fans, but it did not come easy tonight against a strong physical Drua side.

It was one of the Waratah's most impressive defensive performances to date and when the defence plays well, attack comes naturally.

Joey Walton was a standout with a relentless defensive display, an incredible try assist and 50-22 that sealed the game.

The wingers Dylan Pietsch and Mark Nawaqanitawase dominated their edges, Pietsch grabbing one try and Nawaqanitawase scoring a double.

The Waratahs struggled to maintain possession of the ball, with turnovers at the breakdown and ball security being an issue for the home side.

However, their impressive defensive blue wall was impenetrable and only leaked 6 points in the first half.

Max Jorgensen had a try-saving tackle to his name, but it was a 15-man effort to keep this physical Drua team away from the try line.

Fijian were the first to score at Allianz Stadium with Caleb Muntz kicking a penalty goal seven minutes in.

The Waratahs hit back with newly re-signed star Mark Nawaqanitawase diving over in the corner.

The ball travelled through four Waratah's hands before finding the winger on his edge. Ben Donaldson was unable to kick the extra points from the sideline.

Ill-discipline from the Waratahs allowed Drua to kick another penalty shortly after and take the lead. This was short-lived as Donaldson quickly came back with three points of his own.

The Waratahs moved into defensive mode with Drua banging on their front door with multiple attempts at the line. Similar to last week against the Rebels, the Waratahs were able to muscle up and keep their try line clean.

The halftime siren blew, and the Waratahs were awarded a penalty deep in their half after an extraordinary defensive stand.

Fans were waiting for a quick tap and a kick into touch, however, Gordon chose to go for the lineout.

This risk paid off for the men in blue, as they marched their way into Drua’s half and stole five points six minutes after the siren. Heading into the sheds up 13-6.

The second half started similar to how the first finished. Drua with the majority of the possession, bashing their way around the ground but continued to fall short.

Jorgensen, Pietsch and Walton were continuously dangerous around the wings, probing at the Drua's defence.

However, Drua were the first to strike in the half with Tevita Ikanivere picking and going close to the line to give Drua their first five points of the match.

Coach Darren Coleman decided to put some fresh bodies on the field with Mahe Vailanu, Charlie Gamble, Nepha Leatigaga, Ned Hanigan and Mosese Tuipulotu all coming after the interchange bench.

This gave a spark the Waratahs were searching for. Jorgensen was able to put Nawaqanitawase through a hole, flicked passed to Walton who would then throw an incredible pass back to Nawaqanitawase to dive over for his second of the night.

Momentum seemed to have shifted, however, from the back of a loose lineout ball, blindside flanker Joseva Tamani was up to take advantage and run over untouched.

Mark Nawaqanitwase was able to get a hand on Muntz conversion attempt which fell short. Keeping the away side behind by two. (20-18)

The back and forth would continue with the Waratahs scoring another try minutes after Drua.

Langi Gleeson showed off his tremendous strength running over a Drua player before slamming the ball down in the corner.

Walton would continue his impressive game nailing a 50-22 late into the second half. This would give the Tahs a 5-metre lineout, Mahe Vailanu was able to give the home side their bonus point try.

Jake Gordon spoke on the toughness of Fijian Drua:

"What we knew was the Fijian team is so dangerous on attack and they were going to test us throughout the night, which they did," said captain Jake Gordon.

WARATAHS (1-15): Te Tera Faulkner, Dave Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Hugh Sinclair, Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Ben Donaldson, Dylan Pietsch, Joey Walton, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen

RESERVES: Mahe Vailanu, Nephi Leatigaga, Archer Holz, Ned Hanigan, Charlie Gamble, Teddy Wilson, Mosese Tuipultou, Harry Wilson

DRUA (1-15): Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere, Jone Koroiduadua, Isoa Nasilasila, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Joseva Tamani, Vilive Miramira, Meli Derenalagi (c), Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Taniela Rakuro, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese

RESERVES: Zuriel Togiatama, Emosi Tuqiri, Mesake Doge, Etonia Waqa, Elia Canakaivata, Philip Baselala, Kemu Valetini, Apisalome Vota

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe

Assistant Referee: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw