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Waratahs break trans-Tasman streak in style

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Saturday, May 19, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

As so often happens when streaks come to an end, it was an emphatic demolition job with the Waratahs outside backs revelling in opportunities that have not come their way too often in recent seasons. The last Australian win was in May 2016.
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Beaten last week after suffering one of the greatest chokes in Super Rugby when going from 29-0 up against the Crusaders only to lose 31-29, the Waratahs made no mistake this time around, their cause helped by the Highlanders having to play three-quarters of the game with 14 men after wing Tevita Nabura was sent off.

He was ruled to have deliberately aimed his leg at the head of defender wing Cameron Clark when contesting a high kick and referee Brendon Pickerill had no hesitation in issuing the red card.

The Highlanders missed an early try chance when a forward pass was ruled, but wing Taqele Naiyavoro made a break and was then on hand when second five-eighths Kurtley Beale set up the chance and he scored the opening try in the 14th minute.

Reduced to 14 men, the Highlanders then lost halfback Aaron Smith when a deliberate knock down was ruled against him. The Waratahs took advantage of the Highlanders having only 13 men to work the ball around before centre Curtis Rona capped the build-up work by putting Naiyaravoro in for his second try in the 23rd minute.

Two minutes into the second half Elliot Dixon denied Rona a try with a fine goalline tackle after a break by Foley opened up space on the right flank. But from the resulting scrum the ball was flung wide and fullback Israel Folau made no mistake in crossing for his 49th Super Rugby try.

That gave the Waratahs a 22-0 lead but the Highlanders dug deep and after wing Waisake Naholo made ground into the Waratahs 22m area. From the ruck fullback Ben Smith was in the stand-off position and lobbed a cross-kick to Elliot Dixon who was waiting in wide open prairie to score.

But failure to make first and second tackles on Naiyaravoro and he set in phase a play where the ball was moved through several pairs of hands, including No.8 Michael Wells and prop Sekope Kefu, Beale before it found Folau who crossed for his 50th try, the third fastest to achieve the feat behind Brumbies player Joe Roff and Hurricane Christian Cullen.

Two minutes later the Highlanders struck back from a lineout after a penalty. They mounted a driving maul and in the battle to get over the line it was hooker Ash Dixon who scored.

However, the demands of attempting to maintain their usual defence with a man down took its toll in the final quarter in which replacement back Lalaki Foketi and Rona scored tries in quick succession while another try was denied when replacement halfback Nick Phipps lost the ball when diving for the line.

Scorers: Waratahs 41 (Taqele Naiyaravoro 2, Israel Folau 2, Lalakai Foketi, Curtis Rona tries; Bernard Foley 4 con, pen) Highlanders 12 (Elliot Dixon, Ash Dixon tries; Lima Sopoaga con). HT: 15-0