The NSW Waratahs have overcome a slow start to defeat Moana Pasifika 26-20 at Mt Smart Stadium, registering their first win in New Zealand in eight years.
Tonight’s win has seen the Waratahs move up the ladder into 5th position, overtaking the Queensland Reds in the process and keeping their hopes of a home finals spot alive.
Despite the Waratahs coming into the match as heavy favorites, it was Moana Pasifika who burst out of the blocks, racing to a 17-0 lead by the 20th minute courtesy of tries to Abraham Pole and Levi Aumua.
Darren Coleman’s men slowly started to get a foothold in the game courtesy of a dominant scrum and powerful ball carrying from Izaia Perese.
Perese grabbed the Waratahs’ first try of the night, bursting through three defenders, and running a hard unders line before Dave Porecki closed the gap to just three points at half-time scoring from a pick and drive.
The Waratahs almost had a dream start to the second half, with Dylan Pietsch dotting down, finishing off a brilliant Perese grubber and regather however it was overruled by the TMO as a Moana player put his foot into touch earlier in the play.
Tries to Mark Nawaqanitase and Dylan Pietsch finally saw the Waratahs grab the lead for the first time in the match by the 61st minute, but the home side wouldn’t go away ensuring another nervous finish.
Down by six points and with possession on the Waratahs five metre line, Moana kept pressuring phase after phase but the Waratahs’ defence held strong securing crucial competition points and the team’s first win in New Zealand since 2015.
NSW Waratahs Head Coach Darren Coleman was thrilled to get the win off a determined Moana side.
“I’m pleased we got away with it because I knew it was going to be a hard game,” said Coleman.
“We could have potentially been perceived as a bit flat after the high we went through [against the Crusaders].
“Obviously you’re concerned at 17-0, but I felt if we could string phases together and passes we could have scored enough points to win it. They were clearly the best team we’ve come up against at the breakdown. We just played tough.”
The Waratahs now turn their attention to next week’s clash against the Hurricanes at Leichhardt Oval.
PASIFIKA (1-15): Abraham Pole, Ray Niula, Sekope Kepu (c), Veikoso Poloniati, Sam Slade, Michael Curry, Solomone Funaki, Henry Time-Stowers, Ereatara Enari, Christian Leali'ifano, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Henry Taefu, Levi Aumua, Tima Fainga'anuku, Danny Toala
RESERVES: Luteru Tolai, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Joe 'Apikotoa, Alex McRobbie, Jack Lam, Jonathan Taumateine, Lincoln McClutchie, Solomone Kata
WARATAHS (1-15): Angus Bell, Dave Porecki, Archer Holz, Jed Holloway, Geoff Cridge, Will Harris, Charlie Gamble, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jake Gordon (c), Tane Edmed, Dylan Pietsch, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome
RESERVES: Tom Horton, Tetera Faulkner, Ruan Smith, Hugh Sinclair, Langi Gleeson, Jack Grant, Ben Donaldson, Triston Reilly