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Remarkable second half gets Waratahs home

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Saturday, July 21, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

It was virtually all the Highlanders in the first half as they stormed to a 6-23 lead, but a Waisake Naholo yellow card in the second half proved deadly as the Waratahs scored three tries within seven minutes while Naholo was off the field.

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Big name players Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau were all instrumental in the Waratahs revival with Foley notching a career high 25 points for the game.

The Highlanders had plenty of opportunities to score late in the game and force the match into extra time, but the Waratahs defence held strong to secure the famous victory.

The Waratahs had the better of a tentative opening ten minutes and deserved to hold an early 6-3 lead. But that was to be it for the Waratahs in the opening 40 minutes as the Highlanders took control to run away with a 6-23 halftime lead.

The Highlanders two first-half tries were brilliantly worked with Lima Sopoaga playing a hand in both. The crafty playmaker sliced through the Waratahs flat defence to set up Waisake Naholo for the first try while the second was more intricate. Getting the ball in midfield, Sopoaga dummied to a number of decoy runners before centre Rob Thompson found a gaping hole and ran 30 metres unopposed to the line.

The main issue for the Waratahs was a lack of possession in the first half. With James Lentjes causing problems at the breakdown and simple errors letting them down, the Waratahs were ineffectual and lucky to not concede more points in the first half.

The first ten minutes in the second half were much of the same for the Waratahs as the Highlanders continued to hold possession and press in the Waratahs half.

With their title hopes fading fast, the home side needed to find a spark and it came when Waisake Naholo was yellow carded for a high tackle on Sekope Kepu close to the line.

In a remarkable seven minute passage, the Waratahs big name players all stood up as the home side crossed for three tries. There was no answer to the Waratahs onslaught as both Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau cut the Highlanders defence open in an extraordinary 21-point burst.

A Bernard Foley penalty in the 70th minute extended the Waratahs lead to 30-23 and the final ten minutes were all about the Waratahs steely defence as they held out the Highlanders with just 14 men on the field due to a yellow card to Paddy Ryan.

The Waratahs now await the winner of the Lions-Jaguares quarterfinal to see who they will face in the semifinals next weekend.

SCORERS:
Waratahs 30 (Israel Folau try, Bernard Foley 2 tries, 2 pen, 3 con) Highlanders 23 (Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson tries, Lima Sopoaga 3 pen, 2 con)
HT: 6-23