I might have been wondering last week whether this was a quality collective performance by the Tahs, but I certainly don’t have any worries this week.
Photos A Knight
In my opinion it was the best Waratahs display since the beginning of Super Rugby. It was comprehensive right across the paddock against a quality opponent in good form. I know the Highlander’s record in Sydney isn’t all that wonderful, but from their performance last week, I thought this was going to be a harder match than it was. Having said that, it was a tough match for the first half at least with some difficult moments.
Once the Waratahs established their superiority though, they never lost sight of it.
I thought the Highlanders loose head prop had been dominant last weekend, but I was delighted when Kepu, then Ryan and Kepu again reallly got the better of him. It was an important component of the win.
Then I thought we had to overcome the loss of Dennis and I thought Hoiles was terrific in the set plays, scrum and lineout – but then also in the loose. We always knew he was a great player with a good understanding of lines of running and support, but then we got some real hard nosed moments at the tackle contest and also in the tackle where he forced turnovers.
Then we had Nick Phipps who we’d always recognised as a pretty good player – in this game he threw more balls off the ground than any other time I’ve seen him. When you saw how close to the gain line that Foley and Beale played, these extra two yards were important.
Someone told me after the game that Nick Phipps did not make one box kick in the entire game – what a story that tells. It’s a big departure from the ‘modern shape of the game’ where the box kick is boringly predictable. Even though it can be effective, it’s not nearly as effective as keeping the ball in hand. It tells a big story in the attitude of the Waratahs and if you add that to the fact the first receiver plays very flat, then that brought support play into the game .
The number of the times Waratahs players – especially big forwards – were able to come on to the ball with depth and parallel to touch meant that it was always going to be difficult for any defence. So we saw really penetrative runs from Kepu and Potgeiter, really punishing runs from Nau, Palu and Skelton, plus some searching runs from Hooper and Hoiles.
All in all it was an outstanding performance. If you add to the collective game that the Tahs have these big runners, then that’s going to be a very hard team for anyone to contain.
Cheika must have looked and seen that the Highlanders have an excellent counterattacking back three and meaning turnover or kick ball was dangerous. So kicked ball was covered immediately and it denied the Highlanders the sort of opportunities they feed on to get their emotion for the game going. Full marks for strategy, attitude and enterprise.
The fact that all the players in the Waratahs are all playing at high personal potential is an absolute credit to the whole set up: the coaching and S&C staff, because the players are obviously enthusiastic and ready to play. Defence and attack coaches full marks. The ability of Michael Cheika to enthuse the players and that their strategy and approach to the game – although fraught with danger of putting pressure on yourself – works with the truism of the game that unless you put yourself under pressure, you can’t put the defence under pressure.
The only thing I’d like to see them do better, is that when under pressure from a rushing umbrella defence, our receiver should be taking the tackle on an unders line rather than trying to get around the outside rush defender. This is exactly what the Crusaders will do – they’ll kick to the Waratahs and dare them to run it back. We need to be ready for it.
The Force had to come back after a below par performance, and the Reds had to stand up and repeat a superior one. The Force managed to do it and the Reds didn’t. The Reds played poorly. They started badly and weren’t up the pace of the game. The Force started well and maintained the pace of the game.
After such a very good year for the Force, culminating in so many players in the extended Wallaby squad, it was rewarding for all of us as fans to see them repeat the form that has gotten them within sight of the playoffs. They also did this without Cottrell, Alcock, Godwin and the first string fly-half. Sam Wykes – a consistently good player at Super level – has never played better. Nathan Charles and Pek Cowan showed the benefit of Wallaby selection.
The highlight of the round for the Reds was the outside centre Kerevi who looks an absolute find – where has he been? Even on that one display he’s worth another look. Players with pace and power around the mid section like him don’t grow on trees.
Next week’s game for the Waratahs has nothing to do with anything they’ve played for the rest of the season. The Reds will trying to get away with covering a poor season by rescuing it through beating the Tahs. We all expect that the Reds will lift to the occasion.