Waratahs have substance behind flash - Foley

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 16:33 28/07/2014
Bernard Foley
Getty Images
ZIPPY: Bernard Foley takes the ball up for the Waratahs during their Super Rugby semifinal win over the Brumbies.

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He accepted the adulation after scoring one of the most memorable tries of the Super Rugby season to secure the NSW Waratahs' first home final, but Bernard Foley prefers to dwell on the defensive effort that set up a third title showdown with the Crusaders.

Foley's completion of a sweeping counterattack in the 76th minute at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night was a belated reminder of the Waratahs' offensive capabilities - though a bruising semifinal with the Brumbies also highlighted another champion-winning prerequisite: unyielding defence.

As the Waratahs headed for their first debrief today ahead of Saturday's final at ANZ Stadium, the incumbent Wallabies first five-eighth was still marvelling at his side's ability to withstand immense pressure and prevent the Brumbies scoring after halftime before they closed out a 26-8 victory.

"That's probably the most impressive thing about the win and most satisfying is it was such a grind and such a battle," said Foley, noting the Waratahs had rarely been stressed since their most recent loss to the Blues on Anzac Day.

Since then the Australian conference winners and minor premiers have virtually cruised through the remainder of the regular season, with a nine point win over the Hurricanes - after they recovered from a 24-7 first half deficit - the only anxious moment until last weekend's derby.

"We probably haven't been in one (grind) for so long this year. We've been in patches of halves that have been like that and then we've been lucky to blow it out or come over sides.

"It was very satisfying having to be in the grind for 75 minutes there, with really our backs to the wall.

"For our defence to be so united, to hold up to the challenges the Brumbies threw at us is definitely very pleasing and I think we can take a lot out of that leading forward.

"There's a lot of belief in our attack and I think the defence has been there all year and now it's starting to get the headlines."

While the Waratahs defensive systems were effective, Foley acknowledged they could not afford to present a similar ratio of territory and possession to a Crusaders side finally showing signs of consistency on the back of three straight wins.

The Sydney men were yet to analyse their final opponents' domination of the Sharks in the other semifinal though Foley expected few surprises, particularly with Dan Carter refreshed by his sabbatical.

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"Their attack has come together towards the back end of the year," he said, crediting Carter's four-game stint with adding confidence and composure to the Crusaders backline.

Naturally limiting Carter's influence at second five-eighth or first receiver was a priority as planning got underway.

"His composure, his ability to influence a game, control the match and keep it on their terms is definitely a massive strength of his so you've got to take time and space away from him by nullifying their ball runners."

Carter's defence has also been a hallmark of his comeback - he was particularly effective in shutting down Ma'a Nonu when the Crusaders started their winning sequence against the Blues - and Foley was coy about whether the All Black legend would be targeted by Wycliff Palu after the No.8 made a beeline for Brumbies pivot Matt Toomua.

"All year we've done things like that, some have been successful, some haven't," he said.

Meanwhile, Foley was unfazed about the Crusaders' 11-match winning streak over the Tahs, a stretch that includes the 2005 and 2008 finals.

He played the Crusaders for the first time in Christchurch last year when they were pipped 23-22 because Berrick Barnes missed a penalty on full time.

"We were unlucky to lose that one," he said.

"We just to have that belief that everyone is going to do their job."

South African Craig Joubert, the referee of the 2011 World Cup final between the All Blacks and France, has been appointed to control the final. He will be assisted by Australians Steve Walsh and James Leckie.

- Stuff

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