Kurtley Beale has garnered plenty of plaudits upon his return to five-eighth and for once it’s his defence that’s earning most praise.
Beale produced an assured and classy performance as he once again donned the NSW Waratahs No.10 jersey in which he started his Super Rugby career nine years ago.
He skilfully mixed kicking, running and passing options in the Waratahs’ 30-10 opening round home win over the Reds in Sydney on Saturday,
But it was a first-half try saving tackle on rampaging Reds’ winger Chris Feauai-Sautia which brought the crowd to their feet.
Beale has always been renowned more for attack than defence but he saved a certain five-pointer with a shuddering front-on tackle on Feauai-Sautia.
Waratahs captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper felt a try to Queensland at that juncture could have completely changed the game, the home team was leading just 8-0 at the time and subsequently extended that advantage to 20 points by the break.
“Credit to KB, that’s what we want,” Hooper said of Beale’s tackle.
“He was tested with a new position, not his classical position at the Waratahs over the past couple of years, and stepped up.
“That in a nutshell is our identity. We want to take it and run with it and he did that in both attack and defence tonight.”
Beale’s all round effort elicited praise from new Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, who always intended playing Beale at five-eighth in the opening round game, even if incumbent Wallabies’ pivot Bernard Foley hadn’t been injured.
“I thought all round very good, i thought kicking out of hand very good,” Gibson said of Beale.
“You saw his effort in defence … that’s desperation and commitment that we want.”
Reds’ coach Richard Graham lauded Beale’s accomplished attacking game.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the world at actually assessing situations, summing up the opportunities and getting into space,” Graham said.
“You’ve got a lot of inside backs who tend to ball watch. I think Kurtley scans the field better than most and knows when he wants the ball.
“His impact at this level and international rugby is top class.