SYDNEY, Australia -- The Waratahs have brought out some Fijian flair of their own while putting on a defensive masterclass to retain their place in the top eight and light up Allianz Stadium in their 32-18 win over the Fijian Drua on Saturday night.
Scoring one of the most incredible tries of the season, Mark Nawaqanitawase capped off an incredible evening and showed his flair when he collected a flying Joey Walton offload to dive over in 64th minute and give his side a lead that the Drua ultimately couldn't overcome.
Stan commentators were left speechless while the crowd were in raptures after Nawaqanitawase first collected a flick pass from Max Jorgensen in a tackle, before putting on a stutter step and accelerating forward to slip through two defenders. Unloading to Walton, the centre would take it forward before -- while midair in a tackle -- he'd swing it back in field for the wing to fly the final 10-metres and score.
It was the clear highlight of the evening which included some enterprising play with Jorgensen, Walton and Nawaqanitawase putting their names in lights with their attacking prowess. Jorgensen has continued his growth at fullback having a hand in four tries -- it could have been five if not for a Moses Tuipolutu hand -- while he's decision making around running and kicking has continued to improve.
Bit of flair from the Tahs ✨ How good were those offloads!— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) May 20, 2023
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"Yeah, it is [satisfying]," Tahs coach Darren Coleman said after the win. "Yeah you like to watch it again before you can be completely accurate, but I just like the fact that we can win now without being emotionally high, like I just felt it was relatively clinical.
"We did some good things in attack, like some of our pattern attack looked the best at had like we had our second half we got some nice pattern breaks, we got a little 31 pattern, then we got our 21 pattern that Langi scored off, so it was good to see that scripted stuff work that that hasn't been a strong point for us.
"There's definitely some things we could have done a little better around our breakdown or a couple of kicks that didn't go out, but I just thought we just stayed in the fight the effort was good throughout.
"Yeah, we're not there yet, but we're getting to a point where we're relatively consistent and not too many things are affecting us.
"Sometimes you don't give due credit when you're watching it live, but yeah, he [Joregensen] did some great things in attack.
"There could have made a hand in five there when Mosese sort of stuck his hand out, Max looked like he wanted to hit the unmarked winger there and Dyl might have gone over. So definitely did some good things. He's picking his times on when to run back and he's getting off loads away if not tackle breaks, so he's warming into it."
But it was the defensive efforts across the board that sealed the win for the Waratahs and saw the return of the blue wall.
Forced to make more than double the tackles of the Drua (236 vs. 106) with 91 percent efficiency, the Tahs constantly shot out of the line to shut down any chance of the Drua spreading the ball wide, while they made sure to wrap and smother the ball carrier's arms to nullify the Drua's crucial offloading game.
Five Tahs players finished the match with more than 20 tackles to their names while Harry Johnson-Holmes put in a mammoth effort to make 27 with Hugh Sinclair and Michael Hooper not far behind with 26 each.
"They just defended really well," Coleman said. "Some of our tight forwards are in the 20 pluses. So yeah, proud of the effort and to keep our winning record here and keep building on the momentum here, particularly the Footy Stadium is awesome.
"The analysts showed me the number at around the 58-minute mark there was 31 minutes ball in play and we've only been averaging 32 minutes ball in playing a game so and it wasn't like there was a lot kicking so sometimes those ball in play stats go up because the kick to kick to kick, but there wasn't a lot of that either so. We'll be tired, we'll need to freshen up."
While the flood gates started to open late in the match with two quick tries to Langi Gleeson and Mahe Vailanu in the final 10-minutes, for much of the game the score remained low as both sides played a frenetic, high-pace game plan with the ball constantly moving from either side of the field.
It was anything but boring as the crowd were treated to a champagne rugby at it's finest with the ball constantly in play, huge tackles made by both sides and a never say day attitude that saw both sides fighting to the final whistle.
The bonus point victory makes it four wins on the trot - the first time in five years they've managed that achievement -- for the Waratahs who struggled to find any consistency early in the season and were struggling to breach the top eight. Now holding steadfast to their spot at six the Tahs are peaking at exactly the right time with the Crusaders in Christchurch and a final home game against Moana Pasifika to close out the regular season.