The NSW Waratahs announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with this Super Rugby season as their star-studded backline exploded on the big stage to crush the Queensland Reds in a record 32-5 romp at ANZ Stadium.
Superstar fullback Israel Folau continued his try-scoring hot streak with a double, while playmaking dynamos Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale mesmerised with the ball to engineer the Waratahs’ biggest ever win over Queensland in Super Rugby.
The victory also ended a five-match losing streak for NSW against Queensland.
Labelled “February champions” north of the border this week, perennial under-achievers the Waratahs are now in control of the Australian Conference.
Four tries were scored, but the foundations for a second successive bonus-point victory to start the year were laid by the Waratahs forwards.
Led by South African import Jacques Potgieter and prop Benn Robinson, NSW shrugged aside criticisms of being too slow for Queensland by launching a brutal physical blitz on their Reds counterparts.
The defensive line piled the pressure on Reds generals Quade Cooper and Will Genia like men possessed, and the Waratahs can now put their feet up for a week with a bye before attempting another emphatic statement against last year’s grand finalists the Brumbies in a fortnight.
Queensland impressed last week against the Brumbies, but must now go back to the drawing board after meeting their match in Sydney.
After bagging a hat-trick against the Western Force last week, Folau was over again after just two and half minutes and then went-back-to-back midway through the half with a gem which finished off a movement that passed through 11 sets of Waratah hands.
The ever-present Folau was also sin-binned on the stroke of halftime for intentionally knocking the ball out, however he potentially saved a try by doing so.
Queensland immediately capitalised on Folau’s absence with a try to Lachie Turner after the hooter to make it 19-5 at the break.
But before Folau returned to the field in the second half, the result and the bonus point was secured after a brilliant quick tap and charge for the line from a sharp-minded Beale.
By the 69th minute, Folau – the man regarded by many as the best player in Australian rugby after just over 12 months in the sport – was given an early shower by coach Michael Cheika.
Five-eighth Foley’s ball-playing was crisp and his vision to run the ball split the Reds on occasions.
In the 26th minute, the Waratahs popped the champagne with a near 70-metre surge, where 10 players touched the ball – Foley handling twice before Folau crossed.
The sight of the electric Wallabies No.15 saluting the crowd is becoming a welcomed sight for Waratahs fans, even though it was another underwhelming crowd that made the journey out to Homebush.
The scoreline could have been even worse for Queensland if Alofa hadn’t had two tries disallowed.