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Waratahs fight back to beat Moana Pasifika – Super Rugby Pacific


AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 07: Mark Nawaqanitawase of the Waratahs scores a try during the round 12 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the NSW Waratahs at Mt Smart Stadium on May 07, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

NSW Waratahs beat Moana Pasifika 20-26 in a see-sawing Super Rugby Pacifica clash at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland.

The in-form Waratahs fought back from 17-0 down to beat a spirited but limited Moana Pasifika and register a rare Super Rugby win in New Zealand.

NSW had lost their last 12 Super Rugby matches in New Zealand going back to 2015.

Playing Moana, who had only won once all season, offered the Australians a perfect opportunity to rectify that specific statistic.

And the Sydney-based franchise did not look a gift horse in the mouth, claiming a deserved win in Penrose.

The evergreen Christian Leali’ifano made history in the second half when he kicked his second penalty of the game.

The 34-year-old first five-eighth (2 pens, 2 cons – 10 pts)became just the seventh player to score 1,000 Super Rugby points.

Abraham Pole and Levi Aumua both scored for the Pacific islanders. Leali’ifano converted both and added a penalty before the hosts imploded.

Tries from Izaia Perese, Dave Porecki, Mark Nawaqanitawase, and Dylan Pietsch saw the Tahs fightback to claim the points.

Tane Edmed had a quiet but solid game at first receiver, he kicked two conversions to Ben Donaldson’s one.

Perese had a superb match. He carved open the opposition time and again with scything runs from all over the field.

The ex-rugby league playmaker scored, had a hand in Pietsch’s try, and was unfortunate to not have an assist for Alex Newsome, whose score was correctly chalked off.

The 24-year-old centre had a time in midfield. He ran for 104 metres on 11 carries, beating seven defenders with two linebreaks, with four offloads.

Perese was also solid in defence, making seven tackles and missing none in a Player-of-the-Match performance.

Darren Coleman’s side’s slender victory is a victory nonetheless, and it keeps the momentum and feel-good factor going.

The Waratahs now move ahead of arch-rivals the Queensland Reds on the Super Rugby Pacific table, who lost to the Highlanders in Brisbane.

The Waratahs fought back from two early scores to trail by three at halftime against Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika started strong, scoring two converted tries and a penalty to open up a three-score lead after 22 minutes.

Pole and Aumau’s early scores gave Aaron Mauger’s men the perfect start.

But the tournament’s new boys’ inexperience – and torrid set pieces – allowed the tourists to get a foothold in the game.

Perese and Dave Porecki’s scores got the Tahs back into the contest before the break.

Leali’ifano’s trusty boot edged Moana to a 20-14 lead after halftime, but that was as good as it got for the home team

Poor discipline saw Fainga’anuku yellow carded and the visitors strike twice while the winger was off.

The card turned the tide as the Aussies went ahead; it was a lead they would not give up despite Fainga’anuku going close.

A late surge and attack on the NSW try line came to nothing due to poor handling and the fact that the hosts could not opt for a scrum or lineout.

New South Wales got out of jail, while Moana Pasifika is again left to rue their missed chances.

Lethargic Waratahs struggled to get a grip on the game after their epic win against Crusaders, and Moana made them pay

Moana took advantage of a sloppy NSW, who was still on the plane as the errors mounted.

The Tahs conceded six penalties and turnovers apiece in the first stanza as the home team raced into a commanding lead.

Coleman’s side suffered a hangover after last weekend’s famous upset win over the Crusaders.

The only thing working was the Australian’s set-piece; they stole two lineouts and had the better of a weak Moana scrum.

New South Wales hit back at the end of the half.

Leali’ifano opens the scoring in the 10th minute. Five minutes later, the islanders had their first try after a poor Waratahs lineout.

Porecki overthrew the defensive lineout, and Solomone Funaki gathered to set up a counter-attack.

The ball got shifted wide to the wings where Timoci Tavatavanawai went close. Pole, on the angled run, collected Ereatara Enari’s flat pass and crashed over for the score.

Moments later, the hosts struck again.

Several pick-and-goes on the Tahs’ line (eight phases, 18 metres gained, 52 seconds), ended with Aumua – who started the attack – scoring under the posts with two defenders hanging off him.

Leali’ifano converted both as the 26-capped Wallaby edged closer to his landmark achievement.

However, Coleman’s men found a way back into the contest before halftime.

Jake Gordon opted for a scrum instead of taking the points because the Moana set-piece, the worst in the competition, was already reeling.

A good right shoulder opened the space for Gordon to go to his right to set up the score.

Perese timed his run to perfection, cut back inside and broke Leali’ifano’s tackle before beating Henry Taefu to the whitewash.

Edmed converted to make it 17-7 on the half-hour.

Perese was carving up the opposition, but the visitors could not find the final pass.

With two minutes remaining before the half, the Aussies struck again.

Several pick-and-goes finished with Porecki breaking left off the ruck to score next to the sticks.

Edmed again converted to cut the gap to 17-14 as the teams went into the sheds.

Tima Fainga’anuku’s ill-discipline proved costly for Moana Pasifika as the Waratahs shot ahead

Alex Newsome had a try chalked off soon after the restart following a foot in touch in the build-up by Timoci Tavatavanawai.

Leali’ifano’s second penalty, on 46 minutes, pushed the veteran standoff past 1,000 Super Rugby points (1,001).

The tide turned with Fainga’anuku’s yellow card for a tip tackle in the 54th-minute. The winger’s ill-discipline cost his side 12 points and a lead while he sat on the naughty step.

NSW scored twice in six minutes to turn the six-point deficit into a six-point lead as the game entered the final quarter.

The Tahs booted to the corner to set up the score. Nawaqanitawase’s collected Gordon’s long cutout pass and beat Willy Havili and Leali’ifano to the corner flag.

Donaldson, on for Edmed, missed the touchline conversion. It did not matter because the visitors struck again.

Jed Holloway was involved twice in the attack. Holloway sent Pietsch away in the corner after Nawaqanitawase and Gordon, with some slick handling, combined to start the counter-attack.

Donaldson, this time, slotted the sideline conversion to make it 26-20 to the Sydney side.

Fainga’anuku, back on after his time on the bench, almost dotted down but for a last-ditch Pietsch tackle.

Mauger’s men had their chances at the death, but because of their poor set-piece, the islanders had to tap and go instead of opting for one of the two set-piece options.

With less than two minutes on the clock, Henry Time-Stowers knocked on near the opposition’s try line.

The visitors then saw out the rest of the game for a hard-fought win in New Zealand.

Final Score: Moana 20 (17) Waratahs 26 (14)

Scorers

Moana
Tries – Pole, Aumua
Pen – Leali’ifano (2)
Con – Leali’ifano (2)
Drop –
Cards – T. Fainga’anuku (Yellow, 54′)

Waratahs
Tries – Perese, Porecki, Nawaqanitawase, Pietsch
Pen –
Con – Edmed (2), Donaldson
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly

Teams

Moana Pasifika: 15 Willy Havili, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Henry Time-Stowers, 7 Solomone Funaki, 6 Michael Curry, 5 Sam Slade, 4 Veikoso Poloniati, 3 Sekope Kepu (captain), 2 Ray Niula, 1 Abraham Pole.

Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Joe ‘Apikotoa, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Lincoln McClutchie, 23 Fine Inisi.

Waratahs: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Will Harris, 5 Geoff Cridge, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Archer Holz, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.

Replacements
: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Teterta Faulkner, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Langi Gleeson, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Triston Reilly.



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