Waratah Israel Folau closer to promised land
Israel Folau continued his progression into a top rugby player yesterday by scoring a try and throwing the decisive pass to set up another in the Waratahs' 36-40 loss to the Blues in Whangarei.
The Waratahs looked like taking a win from this game, largely thanks to a hat-trick from Tom Kingston as well as tries to Cam Crawford, Jed Holloway and Folau.
But Blues No 8 Peter Saili grabbed his second try with the last play of the game to steal the win, with the other Blues try scorers being Lolagi Visinia, Tim Perry, Waisake Naholo and Malakai Fekkitoa.
The first impact Folau had was to send through the decisive pass to Kingston for his first try, slotting him into a hole in the Blues defence.
He then showed his finishing skills by dancing through some admittedly poor defending to complete a 50-metre Waratahs attack.
It is three tries in two games for Folau and Waratahs coach Michael Cheika feels he is continuing to improve.
"He is learning about where he needs to do things, when he needs to kick and when he doesn't," Cheika said.
"He will get better with all of those things as he gets more experience in games.
"He is going to make a few mistakes around that kind of stuff, but what he gives us with ball in hand and the attack he can give us on that is good value. It is a bit at a time with him."
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said he was impressed with the former NRL and AFL star.
"He was good and he put us under all sorts of trouble," he said.
"He is going to be a hard man to stop and it's good that we saw him preseason. You can't give him any space and you've got to tackle him pretty hard.
"He is like Sonny Bill Williams, he will need time to adjust to some of the finer points, but if they get the ball into his hands, he's hard to stop."
Having lost 45-31 to the Reds last week, everyone involved with the Blues will be relieved that they were able to get a preseason win and what is also pleasing is that they were able to work out a way of scoring the winner when putting pressure on the Waratahs right at the end of the game.
"I was really pleased with the courage and commitment," Kirwan said.
"The Waratahs came out and threw some great stuff at us, put us under pressure and the boys hung in.
"They did some good and bad things, but we've just got to keep working hard.
"We have still got a lot of work to do.
"I said before the game that it's about process and not results, so we can't let the result cloud what we need to do. We need to get back to the drawing board and keep working hard. We let them off the hook a couple of times but we stuck at it," he said.
Blues (Lolagi Visinia, Peter Saili 2, Tim Perry, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekkitoa tries; Albert Nikoro con, Baden Kerr 4 cons) Waratahs (Cam Crawford, Jed Holloway, Tom Kingston 3, Israel Folau tries; Brendan McKibbon, Bernard Foley cons, Matt Lucas con.) HT: 12-7