Waratahs hang on to hope by a thread - Green and Gold Rugby
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Waratahs hang on to hope by a thread

Waratahs hang on to hope by a thread

The Waratahs tested the faith of their supporters with a below-par performance against the Hurricanes last night, losing 17-28 at Allianz Stadium.

The Match

First Half

The Tahs were led on to the field by Dean Mumm and Matt Carraro who were playing their 100th and 50th matches respectively. Congratulations to both of them on their achievements. As it transpired, there wasn’t much more for the Tahs faithful to celebrate. Referee Chris Pollock celebrated his 201st First Class match but was probably not quite up to his usual high standards.

Early physicality by the Tahs was not sufficiently sustained throughout the match and defensive line speed will no doubt be mentioned in team meetings this week.

Referee Pollock was called into action early in the match, awarding a penalty to the Hurricanes after he ruled that Tahs halfback Nick Phipps kicked the ball back into the scrum as the Tahs were shoving the Canes backward. Replays were inconclusive and Phipps was adamant he hadn’t transgressed, but he is a halfback and therefore not to be trusted. Fortunately Canes flyhalf Beauden Barrett was astray with the shot at goal.

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

Shortly after, Tahs number 8 Wycliff Palu tackled Canes lock Michael Fatialofa high and this time Barret made no mistake, setting the scoreboard attendants in action posting the score line 0-3 in favour of the Hurricanes after 8 minutes. The Tahs had started aggressively and physically but now seemed to waiting a little in defence.

A little bit of aggro at the 11 minute mark seemed to distract the Tahs a bit and some sloppy play ensued, eventually leading to an offside penalty against Tahs fullback Andrew Kellaway that allowed Barrett to increase the Canes’ advantage to six points. 0-6 to the Canes after 12 minutes.

The Tahs have been using an unusual/innovative/”personnel appropriate” defensive format from lineouts for a long time now and on a couple of occasions in the match the Canes looked to test that structure either through a kick-pass to the open side wing or by moving the ball there through quick hands. They managed to find space there more than once, and a chip kick resulted in a successful retrieval by Barrett who proceeded to run in a try at the 17 minute mark. Unconverted, the score was posted on the board: 0-11 in favour of the visitors who were looking full of confidence.

But the Tahs didn’t lie down and reverted to some hard-nosed pick and go Rugby for a while, eventually wearing the Canes defence down sufficiently for giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro to crash over from close range in the 26th minute. The try was duly converted by Bernard Foley and the score went to Tahs 7 – Hurricanes 11. The Tahs had their tails up at this stage and started to exert pressure through field position as the rain started to tumble down in Sydney.

Both teams knuckled down and settled into the battle for a while without threatening to awaken the scorekeepers until some crazy in-goal action from halfback Nick Phipps almost gifted a five pointer to his opponent T J Perenara. The horror, the horror that is the burden imposed upon Tahs fans. But, to the relief of thousands, the officials correctly detected a knock forward and the Tahs were able to exit their danger zone with half time looming. Two quick penalties in succession allowed the Tahs into the Canes territory where centre Willis Halaholo was adjudged to have tackled Bernard Foley high. Yellow card after the 40 minute mark and the subsequent penalty was guided through the sticks by Foley, taking the score to Waratahs 10 – Hurricanes 11 as the players jogged off to the sheds.

Second half

The Tahs looked full of energy at the restart and a great chase by young Andrew Kellaway put pressure on the Canes. The Tahs resumed the pick and go strategy used with some success and Israel Folau displayed great footwork to beat three defenders and strength to carry two more over the try line in the second minute of the second half. Bernard Foley converted and the score changed to Waratahs 17 Hurricanes 11.

No doubt coach Gibson would have smiled thinking that if only they can keep this going.

Coach Gibson’s smile would have been wiped from his face a few minutes later as Cory Jane benefitted from Canes pressure resulting from a partially charged down Foley kick. Janes’ try was converted by Barrett and the Hurricanes went to an 18-17 lead after 47 minutes.

A transgression by the Tahs going off their feet at the breakdown was punished by Barrett and the lead increased to Hurricanes 21 Waratahs 17. 55 minutes gone and the Tahs faithful were starting to chew their fingernails.

The fingernails were momentarily spared but the Tahs fans’ despair elicited collective groans of “oh no” when Naiyaravoro had some sort of moment of madness as he recklessly took out Beauden Barrett in the air. It was only good fortune in Barrett landing relatively safely and unscathed that saved Naiyaravoro from being issued with a red card. But he did receive a yellow card and trotted off at the 57 minute mark. Tahs coaching staff took the opportunity to bring on fresh legs and Sam Lousi replaced Skelton, who had up to now had a mixed performance.

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

The Canes exploited their numerical advantage and their giant winger Julian Savea crossed for five points, allowing Beauden Barrett a regulation conversion that took the score to Hurricanes 28 Waratahs 17 after an hour.

To their credit the Tahs struggled on manfully without inspiring any great hope that they might actually win the match. Naiyaravoro went close in the 72nd minute following good work by replacement flanker Jack Dempsey but was bundled into touch a metre from the line by T J Perenara and Michael Hooper almost scrambled over in the next minute following a poor lineout by the Canes.

But the Tahs failed to click into gear at any stage and the match spluttered to an unsatisfying finish with the score remaining Hurricanes 28 Waratahs 17.

So the Tahs missed an opportunity to go the top of the conference but their finals hopes survive. Just. Next week, the Brumbies host the Force while the Tahs travel to Auckland to face a resurgent Auckland Blues. It’s a slender thread of hope for the faithful.

Final scores: 28-17 in favour of the Hurricanes.

The Game Changer

The Tahs need to be more efficient and effective in set piece and exit plays. Their failure to execute these more conclusively gives hope to opposition teams who look to attack the Tahs at these moments. That said, the Tahs scrum was mostly OK and managed to put significant pressure on the Canes on a number of occasions, and I am sure that the Crusaders will be taking a mental note of that.

The G&GR MOTM

Beauden Barrett. Always threatened. Marshalled the Hurricanes well.

Wallaby Watch

One to forget. Wipe the tape Cheik.

The Details

Score & Scorers

Hurricanes 28

Tries: B Barrett (17), C Jane (47), J Savea (60)
Conversions: B Barrett 2
Penalties: B Barrett 3 

Waratahs 17

Tries: T Naiyaravoro (26), I Folau (42)
Conversions: B Foley 2
Penalties: B Foley 1 

CARDS & CITINGS

Yellow: W Halaholo (40), T Naiyaravoro (57)
Red: Nil

  • Brian

    It was always going to be a difficult task for this modest Waratahs team. After all, the Chiefs and Stormers are they only 2 sides above the Tahs they have claimed victories over and results this year show Allianz stadium is not the awkward venue it once was for visiting teams. Credit to Folau for a terrific individual try but somehow the architects of the Waratahs attack decided to barely use him. Instead we had more of the customary bashing into tacklers which is now the trademark of Australian rugby and fodder for well organised defences. Unlike the Brumbies, Reds and Rebels who were flogged by quality NZ opponents, the Brumbies were just beaten. The difference in class in the key moments though was there for all to see.

    • GoMelbRebels

      Don’t you mean “the Waratahs were just beaten”? I’m confused (more than normal).

    • Douglas

      “customary bashing into tacklers” – so true. After watching three of the Aussie games this weekend (reds, tahs and rebels), one stark difference I noticed between the Aussie and Kiwi teams is the ability to offload at will. I saw very few offloads from any of the Aussie sides but dozens on the Kiwi sides. I was at the Chiefs v Reds game and couldn’t help admiring the way almost every attacking run the Chiefs made had one or more support players ready to receive. The result was far fewer breakdowns and a much more fluid, dynamic attack.

      • AlanDownunder

        So true. The Tahs dropped several offloads because they weren’t even expecting them.

  • brumby runner

    Replays were inconclusive about Phipps kicking the ball back into the scrum? I don’t think so. One angle clearly showed the ball being propelled back off Phipps’ toe.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    As a long time Canes supporter I did enjoy this match. I thought the Canes played very well and while the Tahs didn’t play well at all, there was a lot of pressure applied to them that caused some of the mistakes they made. A couple of points for me.
    Skelton is so far off the pace he should write off this year and start training too get fit for next season. Tackling nonexistent, runs laboured and his most impressive skill seems to be arriving late at a ruck and falling on an opposition player to try and hurt them.
    The Tahs appeared niggly throughout the match and willing to “front up” but it almost seemed as though they were looking for that and forgot it was actually a game of rugby.
    Folau’s try was fabulous and really showed how good he can be but I still think 15 is by far his best position. He gets a lot more room there to make his breaks and can see what’s happening and so can inject himself better. He looks lost at 13 and doesn’t seem to know where he’s meant to go.

    • Patrick

      I think Folau’s best position is anywhere he plays outside QC. Honestly, imagine if QC could have the possibility of passing to Folua and Kuridrani/Kerevi, running hard and FLAT at the defence, it would be a nightmare.

  • Bernie

    Apart from the occasional piece of abrasive defence, could some Waratahs fan please enlighten me on the value of Rob Horne, particularly at No. 12? No ball-playing skills, no kicking game, no quick feet and no special reader of opposition defensive schemes. How in God’s name is this guy the Wallaby vice captain? And we wonder why we get out-thought on the field.

    • Rebels3

      He’s a solid player. But definitely a winger these days, maybe a crash ball option at 13 if there is injuries.

  • Kokonutcreme

    Born and bred Wellington and Canes supporter so very happy with the result.

    Beating the Tahs on the road isn’t an easy assignment. Was so happy for the Bus getting to score that try, if that’s the catalyst to help de-clutter his mind and just play instead of worrying about how to play, then a welcome return to his best form couldn’t be better timed not only for the Canes finals chances but also for the All Blacks.

    Agree that the Tahs entered the match with a view to physically dominate/intimidate the Canes as they did to the Chiefs before the June break. There was a lot of niggle between both teams, with players from both sides guilty of inciting and overreacting to silly behaviour.

    Tahs lineout woes will be of concern, given that playing Skelton limits their lineout targets so it’s important their other jumpers nail their throws. Thought Hooper had a strong match.

  • Brumby Bill

    All you Tah’s fans getting excited for finals football? Oh sorry, I forgot…

    • Concerned With Depth

      No no you can take that finals spot, I think I’d be happy to miss being embarrassed at home to the Crusaders/Chiefs in the quarter final. I sort of wish as a nation we could just forfeit the place at the moment. It may be more beneficial to get the Wallabies in camp a week earlier and save much psychological distress to our players.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    For me it was yet another frustrating game from the Tahs in front of their loyal fans.
    I thought the effort was good but the brains seemed in short supply.

    I can’t figure out what the Canes brought that the Tahs players and coaches did not know about, yet we acted like it was a complete surprise. The Canes, like most NZ teams, are a great counter attacking team, so let’s kick the ball to them. Really?

    I believe we gifted fewer dumb penalties this time around, so that could be see as improved Discipline. However Naiyaravoro taking out Barrett in the air just seemed to be brain dead stuff, and I’d suggest his yellow card a real turning point. Fortunately Barrett was not very seriously injured. I thought the big guy was gone, gone, gone.
    I was praying for Phipps to be subbed as he was treating the pill like a hot potato and getting skittish. I thought Lucas would produce better service. Alas not to be. Maybe he needed more than 7 minutes to work his way into the game?

    Tahs to take on Blues. Well my Kiwi mate up the road will be delighted and phoning inviting me over for the game. I guess I’ll just not answer the phone for a week because he’s one of those smart arsed Kiwi’s that makes you feel bad by actually commiserating with you.

    • Jamie Thomas

      Saturday night was the same story we have seen across rugby in Australia for the past 2-3 months.
      – We have tight forwards who are not ball runners in open play.
      – We have loose forwards who ex. the breakdown offer little else that is constructive attack (Hooper the exception).
      – We have zero running halfbacks who challenge defences and link effectively with their forwards.
      – We lack flyhalves with dominant kicking games.
      – We are devoid of midfield creativity.
      – We lack speed and threat from our back 3.
      – We have too many who run at defenders and too few who run into holes.
      – We kick away too much ball because we lack the skills to do anything more with it.

      We have Israel Folau as a source of points. We are as competent with lineout drives as most. We have little else.

      The gulf between us and NZ is staggering. Their brand of rugby and skill levels across the park are phenomenal. We have work to do here because they don’t look like they’re slowing down.

      • Rebels3

        Agree with most points, but maybe I’m just stupid and think we (force, rebels, tahs, brumbies and Reds) can improve enough of these aspects to be better next year.

      • Kokonutcreme

        It’s incorrect to focus only on the past 2-3 months for Australian rugby’s problem areas. Many of the individual failings you’ve identified have been present in the game now since the 2007 RWC and can’t be resolved by a one size fits all solution.

        Some things like personal fitness and skills training can be controlled by individuals, others like talent identification, development and retention require resources, funds and national co-ordination. Things like team tactics and gameplans naturally evolve to match the capabilities of the players available.

        Remember it’s only been in the past 5-6 years that some of the inconsistent Kiwi teams like the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders have developed that mental hardness to apply to their athletic abilities and skills. Australian teams knew they could beat these Kiwi teams in the past, by showing patience, composure and forcing them to play away from their strengths, now they’re unable to do that.

        Aussies have always punched above their weight in rugby, by being smarter than their opposition. They haven’t been innovators in world rugby since Rod MacQueen and it shows.

        • Jamie Thomas

          Very good points. However, the Reds and Waratahs were the best teams in the comp. in 2011 & 2014 and were deserved winners. The Wallabies showed some nice touches through the RWC last year to reach the final and as a Hurricanes fan, you will recall the Brumbies putting 50 on your team in Round 1 this year. There have been pockets of excellence but as the recent England series illustrated, we lack the individual skills and athleticism to rise up and beat tough, rugged opponents.

    • Davo

      I went to the game and came away pretty disappointed. Having watched the replay today it wasn’t actually as bad as I thought. But it highlighted where the problems were.

      Not only did we (Tahs) repeatedly kick the ball back to them, we did it most often during the period when we had an extra player. Folau, Kellaway & Foley all made terrible kicks straight back to them during the 10 mins just after half time whlie the Canes had a man in the bin. By contrast, when we lost Naiyaravoro following his brain snap, they held onto the ball, spun it around, and took easy advantage of the extra man to put points on the board.

      I note the usual Skelton hate is out in force, but I thought he had a pretty good game. They awarded him Tahs MOTM at the ground, which was probably too generous for a guy who came off with 20 to go, but he was good while he was on nonetheless. Worst on ground would have to be his replacement, Sam Louisi. Rather than adding energy and go forward in the final 20, he looked disinterested and ineffectual.

      Barrett had a great attacking and kicking game for the Canes, and was also quite effective in nullifying much of Foley’s running game by using borderline high tackles. If he does the same during Bledisloe games it will be interesting to see how the refs and Wallabies respond.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Mate the Skelton haters are out in force because he is such an over rated player. He is built up by the media and some commentators to be so much more than he has ever shown on the field. Supporters are sick of being told how much he’s going to do and how he’ll solve all the problems of every team. But he doesn’t ever live up to the hype. He’s unfit, he makes less meters than almost anyone else, he never gets to a ruck in time to do anything more than fall over, one in a blue moon he runs but inevitably drops the ball or throws crap passes, he’s easily contained by good defence and he makes the line out worse just by turning up. Why the hell else are people meant to think?

  • Moose

    Well, that was a grim weekend for Australian rugby. I will admit to cheering when the Brumbies went down, but five from five losses to overseas sides including two complete pastings is rather depressing.

    • Mica

      Two pastings? That’s generous – I’d say 4 pastings.
      4 of the 5 games were more than 3 tries ahead bonus point losses for the Aussie SR sides weren’t they?

  • phil peake

    Gibson has only himself to blame for selecting Naiyaravoro. He makes the backline disfunctional and lets the team down. It’s sad that so many rugby people can’t see how bad he is.

    • Anor

      Finally!!! I have had this argument so many times, yes ok he’s a big unit and can crash over the line if the defence has been worn down and he’s only travelling 30 or so meters but otherwise, he doesn’t think, makes very silly decisions and generally doesn’t seem to understand what he’s meant to be doing.

      • phil peake

        And so many experts don’t see it. Almost all the journalists think he’s good, and the Tahs and Wallabies coach pick him even when he’s clearly overweight and unfit.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I’d be more worried about unskilled and unknowledeable as more of an issue

        • phil peake

          Yes he is lacking in most rugby aspects. I’m really surprised a kiwi coach keeps picking him.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah mate a good point. You’d have thought Gibson learnt more as assistant coach of the Crusaders. It almost makes you wonder if he’s pressured to do so. Although in his defence he hasn’t got a great choice.

        • phil peake

          I think he had choices. Reece robinson could have started. They have a very talented wing in their squad they should give a go to -Harry Jones. But like Kellaway last year he’s putting taqele in front of him. I’m sure cheika wanted gibson to take taqele back but it was still his choice.

    • Marcelo Cardozo

      Phil, he’s an impact player. He can’t play 80 minutes, he MUST play the last 20 minutes IMHO

      • phil peake

        But they’re not selecting him as a last 20 min player are they?
        Even if he is a last 20 mins player, why would risk him coming onto the field with a match in the balance, only for him to drop the ball/ miss a tackle/ give away another penalty and completely blow it for the team?

        • Marcelo Cardozo

          I agree, mate. I’m just saying the ugly truth. Are u a Manly Marlins supporter?

        • phil peake

          Yes! How about you?

  • Jack Mallick

    On the positives, Polota-Nau had a strong game I thought. Plenty of strong barges up the guts as well as further out. Also young Dempsey came on and made a great impact, pumping the legs through tacklers and into space like Mortlock.

    Tahs need balance in the forwards. Skelton to the bench, Dempsey at blindside, Dennis to 8 and find some proper second rowers!

    • Phil

      I thought Dempsey was one of the few bright spots for the Tahs.Why wasn’t he starting?

  • Gun

    I wonder if the game is now dead in this country. It’s hard to believe it can better with upcoming tests.

    • Anor

      They say once you hit rock bottom you can only go up…maybe we’ve hit?

  • AB

    Having watched at the game, after getting ourselves into a strong position on the back of an exceptional solo try by Izzy, I felt the game took on the same inevitability as watching the England series, where Phipps and Foley’s very poor decision making and execution, particularly around kicking, was decisive in the loss. As stupid as Mr T’s yellow card was, why the XXXX did Phipps do an inane box kick when we were building good momentum and working our way into an attacking area through ball in hand. Some of the kicking when we were chasing the game was simply baffling, when our line out wasnt functioning particularly well and they have some of the best open play runners going around. Once again a useless box kick became a game changer…

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    We love Barrett mate. The issue we have is about where he plays. I reckon he’s one of the first names picked for the AB’s

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