Last-gasp Tahs off to a flyer
A TRY after the full-time siren by Ned Hanigan handed the Waratahs a thrilling 34-27 victory over the Stormers to start their Super Rugby campaign on a high note.
Scores were locked at 27-all when the Stormers lost a lineout in their own 30 after the hooter had sounded, and NSW charged forward.
The ball was spread wide to debutant prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, who found Hanigan near the sideline.
The blindside flanker charged over winger Raymond Rhule and slammed the ball down to earn NSW a famous victory in front of a small but raucous Allianz Stadium crowd.
The win takes heat off NSW's poor scrum, which was pushed around for most of the match by the Stormers and will be a sure target for the remainder of the season.
Nevertheless, the Tahs found the big plays when necessary and now head off on a two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina with an important winning start.
"Through the whole game our team showed some real character and fight," NSW coach Daryl Gibson said.
"We've been talking about it a lot, and now we're starting to see it through our actions.
"I think there's definite changes in our team, and improvement.
"Everyone can see we're far harder to break down, we can go for 80, and we fight for everything.
"As a coach that's the kind of display I want to see."
It appeared the teams would not be separated - it was 17-all at halftime - but Hanigan's winning play stole the result away from the tough Stormers outfit.
NSW made the perfect start to the second half when hooker Damien Fitzpatrick scored a try three minutes in, but the Stormers were level again by the 51st.
On the back of a dominant scrum, the Stormers scored when Nizaam Carr took the ball from the back and was tackled near the line before fullback SP Marais picked up the ball and dived over
Lock Rob Simmons was sin-binned in the 58th minute for taking out lineout jumper Kobus van Dyk in the air, yet the Tahs managed to keep it level with a man down, trading one penalty goal each with the Stormers.
Under enormous scrum pressure upon Simmons' departure, the Tahs somehow held onto the ball and worked downfield.
They then forced a penalty in their opponents' half resulting in Foley kicking them ahead 27-24, before Stormers fullback Marais kicked one from 45 metres out to level again.
A drama-filled first half finished even with the combatants each scoring two tries.
The highlight was an Israel Folau aerial special in the 18th minute, racing 30 metres onto a Bernard Foley bomb, leaping high above Stormers playmaker Damian Willemse to catch the ball and race 40 metres to score.
Even by Folau's lofty standards this was one of his best tries in either rugby code.
Earlier, the Stormers had capitalised on NSW's lethargy from kick-off receipts to score the opening try via prop Steven Kitshoff.
Tahs backrower Michael Wells caught the kick-off but was left isolated by support at the breakdown, allowing the Stormers to roll over top and turn over possession.
The ball was shifted to winger Raymond Rhule, who flung it back inside as he was being tackled to the sideline, and Kitshoff was on hand to score his first Super Rugby try.
Having earlier declined to send Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi to the sin bin for a deliberate knockdown with the Tahs in attack, referee Angus Gardner came in for mass jeering when he also failed to award NSW a penalty try in the 25th minute.
Kurtley Beale spilt the ball with the line open, but Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds had knocked forward Lalakai Foketi's pass into Beale, causing the error.
There was no chance of Leyds catching the ball, however Gardner chose to award NSW a scrum feed.
It was a bold call, however Tahs skipper Michael Hooper ensured his team went ahead again by scoring a try from a lineout drive four minutes later.
Hanigan caught the throw and deftly handed it to Hooper who powered through the line, giving NSW a 17-10 lead.
With four minutes remaining in the half, and the Stormers deep in attack, halfback Dewaldt Duvenage chipped in the into the in-goal and van Dyk managed to catch the ball and plant it before going into touch despite pressure from Curtis Rona.
NSW WARATAHS 34 (Damien Fitzpatrick, Israel Folau, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper tries Bernard Foley 4 cons 2 pens) STORMERS 27 (Steven Kitshoff, SP Marais, Kobus Van Dyk tries Marais 3 cons 2 pens) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Angus Gardner