The HSBC Waratahs have started the 2011 Super Rugby season in emphatic fashion, ruining the Melbourne Rebels’ inaugural match with a 43-0 whitewash at AAMI Park to be the first side to raise the Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Shield. It represented an awful start for the new side.
Cipriani wasn’t picked to start, but came of the bench to replace James Hilgendorf, after just nine minutes. Behind a beaten pack he endured a painful debut.
The Tahs were forced to withstand an initial onslaught from the home side which saw them camped in the NSW half for much of the opening quarter. However two tries before half-time and 33 unanswered points in the second 40 minutes finished a strong team performance for the visitors. It is the first time a NSW team has held the opposition scoreless since the Super 12 commenced in 1996.
A marching band followed by a stirring rendition of the national anthem set the tone for a passionate start to the game which saw Dean Mumm and Kevin O’Neill both shown a yellow card in just the sixth minute of play.
The Rebels continued to push the advantage early on however the Tahs’ defence proved airtight and the first real opportunity fell the visitors’ way before play broke down following a Kurtley Beale break.
Though it took 25 minutes, it was Beale who finally scored the opening try of the season following a turnover and a break through the centre by tireless captain Phil Waugh.
Momentum had quickly shifted the Tahs way and seven minutes later Drew Mitchell, who topped the competition’s tryscoring list in 2010, kicked off his 2011 tally. Berrick Barnes missed his second tough conversion attempt and despite NSW going close in the shadows of half-time, they went to the break holding a 10-0 lead.
NSW started the second half the way they finished the first, and a driving maul from a lineout saw Tatafu Polota-Nau notch one for the forwards.
Three minutes later a snipe from a centre-field scrum saw Luke Burgess create enough space to send Mitchell under the posts for his second try. Barnes converted for a 22-0 lead.
In the 53rd minute Beale collected a double of his own when the ball was shifted from wing to wing and the fullback held momentum through the tackle of Luke Rooney to cross in the right corner.
Ten minutes later, and after a period of dominating scrum play from the Tahs’ forwards, Rob Horne celebrated his return from an elbow injury by crossing inside the left touchline. Barnes nailed his third conversion on the trot to open up a 34-0 break.
Chris Hickey started to wheel the changes in the last 20 minutes, but before he gave his captain a rest, Waugh ploughed over from the back of a driving maul for his 13th Super Rugby try which takes him into the Tahs’ top ten since the competition’s inception.
Beale converted for a 43-0 lead, and while the Rebels continued to throw punches in the dying stages, the Tahs kept their defensive record perfect for the first time ever in Super Rugby.
The historic match was also a memorable one for a number of players who achieved individual milestones: Tom Carter was awarded his 50th State Cap; Daniel Halangahu brought up his 50th Super Rugby appearance for NSW; Phil Waugh played his 50th match as NSW captain; Al Baxter played his 116th match for NSW taking him ahead of Matt Burke and into third on the all-time list; Ryan Cross played his 50th Super Rugby match, although along with Sitaleki Timani and Brendan McKibbin it was his NSW debut.
The HSBC Waratahs return to Sydney tomorrow and are back in training on Monday ahead of their Templeton Cup clash with the Queensland Reds at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 26 February.
HSBC Waratahs 43 (Drew Mitchell 2, Kurtley Beale 2, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Horne, Phil Waugh tries; Berrick Barnes 3 cons, Kurtley Beale con) d Melbourne Rebels 0 at AAM Park, Melbourne VIC. Half-time: HSBC Waratahs 10-0. Yellow Cards: Kevin O’Neill (Rebels) and Dean Mumm (HSBC Waratahs), fighting, 6th minute. Referee: Mark Lawrence (RSA). Crowd: 25,524.
By the clock
6th – Yellow Card: Kevin O’Neill (Melbourne Rebels) & Dean Mumm (HSBC Waratahs), fighting
25th – Kurtley Beale try; Berrick Barnes missed conversion. HSBC Waratahs 5-0
30th – Berrick Barnes missed drop goal
32nd – Drew Mitchell try; Berrick Barnes missed conversion. HSBC Waratahs 10-0
43rd – Tatafu Polota-Nau try; Berrick Barnes missed conversion. HSBC Waratahs 15-0
46th – Drew Mitchell try; Berrick Barnes conversion. HSBC Waratahs 22-0
53rd – Kurtley Beale try; Berrick Barnes conversion. HSBC Waratahs 29-0
63rd – Rob Horne try; Berrick Barnes conversion. HSBC Waratahs 36-0
67th – Phil Waugh try; Kurtley Beale conversion. HSBC Waratahs 43-0