UPDATE: Israel Folau took just one minute to open his account for the year, as the Wallabies’ wizard bagged a hat-trick in the NSW Waratahs’ 43-21 opening-round Super Rugby victory over the Western Force at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Folau’s brilliant finishing ability and on-field presence clicked NSW’s season into gear in a scrappy but encouraging six tries to two bonus-point win.
After conquering all before him in his debut season last year, Folau exploded out of the blocks and had a double inside 23 minutes.
Folau raised three fingers to his lips in jubilation when his third try sealed the result for NSW 14 minutes from fulltime, in a performance which should ensure the small crowd turns into a big one next week against heavyweights Queensland.
“It’s not a coincidence that he ends up in the right place at the right time,” said coach Michael Cheika.
“It’s the quality of player to read the game as well as make his impacts and it’s a good start for him.
“And really nice for the crowd to see him enjoy himself when he scores a try. That’s what we want to see; that’s what we want to have in the game.”
Thrill-a-minute winger Alofa Alofa also continued his meteoric rise in his Super Rugby debut, setting up Folau’s first and then stealing a key try of his own after the halftime siren, chasing down a penalty attempt from Bernard Foley that had rebounded off the upright.
“That’s what we want in this team - chase lost causes and never give up,” said Cheika.
“There’s been a bit of pizzazz about him. What I don’t want him to think is that he’s got to go do something like that every week.”
Execution often eluded the Waratahs, with the new-look midfield combination of Foley and Kurtley Beale suffering some early teething problems in a mistake-riddled performance.
But the intention was there for the Waratahs, as they stuck with their attack-at-all-costs game plan.
Even though it took them 70 minutes to put a spirited Force side out of business, the sheer class in the Waratahs’ backline proved enough in the end.
Cheika said during the week his team would have to be prepared to wear some unflattering errors in their pursuit of attacking nirvana.
And so it was when a clumsy flick pass from Peter Betham allowed Force flyers Luke Morahan and Nick Cummins to lay on an 80-metre try for Kyle Godwin which brought the visitors back to 29-21 with less than a quarter to play.
“Because we pass the ball a lot, we’re going to have more turnovers than other teams. It’s just the maths. But we still made too many handling errors in the first half,” said Cheika.
Journeyman winger Matt Carraro illustrated the depth in the NSW arsenal, when he made an incisive run up the middle to pilot Folau over for an unassailable 36-21 advantage.
Force coach Michael Foley said poor defence let his team down.
“They’re talented players so, when you make those errors, they’ll punish you.
“We had the Tahs under pressure and took points out of it but, too easily, we got tight in defence.
“(Defence) was actually a strength for us last year. I do think it’s something we can address.”