Ned Hanigan (centre) of the Waratahs is tackled by Lopeti Timani (left) and Amanaki Mafi of the Rebels.
Ned Hanigan (centre) of the Waratahs is tackled by Lopeti Timani (left) and Amanaki Mafi of the Rebels. PAUL MILLER

Waratahs blow Rebels away in bonus-point victory

THE Waratahs' big guns combined to blow the Melbourne Rebels off the park in a morale-boosting bonus point for NSW at Allianz Stadium.

Israel Folau scored two five-pointers in an eight try-rout that saw the Waratahs stay in touch with the Brumbies in the race for the Australian conference title with four games left.

Eight tries - four in each half - was the highest ever tally posted by NSW against the Rebels but the Melburnians fought hard and clawed back to within six points with 20 minutes to play.

But the Tahs shifted into a new gear in the last quarter, and with the Rebels perhaps showing the effects of a tough fortnight off the field, the home side shut the door on a potential upset and the unwanted record of five straight losses at home.

Folau had one of his best games in many seasons, but he had plenty of company as far as strong performers in sky blue went.

Captain Michael Hooper was outstanding and so too five-eighth Bernard Foley, who controlled a far more complete game from NSW across the entire 80 minutes and not just one half.

Rebels backrower Amanaki Mafi, too, was brilliant in a beaten team.

The Waratahs looked to have the game in hand when they pushed out to a 24-11 lead at halftime but the Rebels refused to give up and they scored two tries to Jonah Placid after the break.

At 29-23, the Waratahs' grip started to look shaky but a superb try to Hooper - with Folau and Foley involved in the lead-up - was followed by a seventh try to Damien Fitzpatrick and an eighth to Bryce Hegarty.

That was enough to rubberstamp the win and give the Tahs confidence for their tough road trip to New Zealand next weekend, where they take on the Highlanders.

The Waratahs will have to fix up their discipline, however, after giving up nine first-half penalties and losing two players to the sin bin.

The Melburnians suffered a big blow when they lost Test star Reece Hodge in the opening minute, however.

Hodge was knocked out trying to tackle Israel Folau and was taken off on a medicab.

The Rebels posted first points through a Ben Volavola penalty but the Waratahs claimed the opening try in the sixth minute.

Nice hands from the front row saw a break to Tom Robertson, and Bernard Foley get front foot ball.

He went through the line and found Nick Phipps in support, who scored under the sticks.

The Waratahs discipline then went on a holiday, and they conceded another six straight penalties, which saw Tolu Latu sin-binned.

The Rebels were gifted territory and possession and after taking two more penalty goals, an attempted pushover scrum by the Rebels, saw Amanaki Mafi take a quick tap from yet another penalty and he scored.

The Rebels led 11-7 and it looked like the Waratahs were going to shoot themselves in the foot yet again in a first half.

But they gathered their composure, and struck back with three tries in 11 minutes.

The first came via Dean Mumm, who finished off simple hands in the left corner but it was extremely lucky given a blatant forward pass by Michael Hooper occurred in the lead-up.

Good defence and sustained pressure by the Tahs saw them return to the Rebels line, and Ned Hanigan was on the end of another overlap to score on the right hand edge.

Taqele Naiyaravoro had saved a try earlier with a timely intercept and another rare touch came up golden on the stroke of half-time.

The big winger broke two tackles and with Marika Koroibete hanging off him, Naiyaravoro offload to Folau for a try after the hooter and a 13-point halftime lead.

The Rebels weren't going out quietly though and they clawed back a try after the break.

Foley was sin-binned for a deliberate knockdown and another quick tap saw Jonah Placid score in the corner.

The Tahs weren't done either, though.

Good tight driving from the forwards saw NSW build pressure and Folau with his hands on the ball from five metres out.

A nice step saw the fullback score his second.

Mafi's excellence saw him make a long range break and set up a second try for Placid soon after, though, and the game went back on a tightrope.

The late Waratahs tries secured the victory.

News Corp Australia

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