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Folau dazzles with royal rugby return

AAP
Sunday, April 20, 2014

Update: 1:32AM Try-scoring king Israel Folau has made a royal return to Super Rugby to lead the NSW Waratahs to a bruising 19-12 win over the Bulls in Sydney.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were on hand at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night as the Waratahs' crown jewel crossed for his ninth try of the season less than 30 seconds into his long-awaited comeback match.

Furious about the Australian Rugby Union's decision to rule him out of last week's loss to the Western Force amid fears the Wallabies fullback could stop breathing if he copped another blow to the throat, Folau made an immediate statement.

Showing no signs of rust, Folau ran a perfect line to pick up an inside ball from Adam Ashley-Cooper to cross under the posts after just 28 seconds.

Folau's early strike proved decisive: the only try of the night helped the Waratahs to their first win over the Bulls in nine years.

The much-needed win, after two losses in their previous three starts, lifted the Waratahs above Australian conference rivals the Western Force into fourth place on the ladder.

NSW coach Michael Cheika will hope the victory doesn't come at great cost, after midfield playmaker Kurtley Beale - who initiated Folau's try - hobbled off just before halftime with a calf strain.

While Folau and Beale dazzled in a revitalised backline, man of the match Michael Hooper and fellow flanker Jacques Potgeiter led the Waratahs pack in a tough forward battle with the hard-nosed South Africans.

Former Bull Potgeiter played like a man possessed, launching his huge frame into ruck after ruck and pulling off a series of heavy tackles that inspired his teammates.

Potgieter was afforded a standing ovation when Cheika rewarded him with an early shower 11 minutes from fulltime after two second-half penalties from five-eighth Bernard Foley all but sealed victory for NSW.

Foley also slotted two penalties and a conversion in the first half for a 14-point haul with the boot.

Foley's opposite number, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, scored all the Bulls' points through four penalties of his own, but it wasn't enough to save the visitors from their sixth straight defeat on the road.

"It was a very important game to get the win after a couple of tough weeks on the road," Folau said.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was left shaking his head at Folau's spectacular impact after a month on the sidelines.

"That's the thing with a special player like him. You can plan but he just needs one bit of space and he can create something out of nothing," he said.

"He is a world-class player."

NSW coach Michael Cheika said Beale jammed his ankle a bit and would need to rest up ahead of Friday's clash with the Blues in Auckland.

"There's a bit of swelling there," Cheika said.

"So he'll take a couple of days off now and see how he fares in relation to the preparation for Auckland." 





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