Bob Dwyer reviews the Waratahs defeat Highlanders
NSW Waratahs

Dwyer’s View: the best Tahs performance since Super Rugby began

Dwyer’s View: the best Tahs performance since Super Rugby began

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.

Naiyaravoro crosses for try_A Knight (Large)


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.

Potgieter and players celebrate_A Knight (Large)

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.

  • Robbo_76

    The Waratahs were great yesterday…the pace, enthusiasm and strength in contact was awesome. I think they could improve with the Beale-foley combo though. In the first half Beale was trying to get too involved and amongst some great things was making errors including trying to take a high ball when Folau was also contesting. He would be better suited picking and choosing when to get involved like appeared to happen more in the second half when Foley took charge. In fact his dynamic running from defending on the wing really does support him being a genuine wallaby option there.

    As for my beloved Reds, close to the worst they’ve played in 5 years. Whilst I’m happy for the force, they need to improve a lot to go with the Brumbies next weekend.

  • Darvs

    I bumped in to Kerevi out one night in Brisbane just as preseason was wrapping up, and for an hour and a half I had a phenomenal chat with him. He is such a fantastic bloke, and his rugby story was really quite interesting. He started off playing lock for Brisbane State High, then moved to 13 in Year 12. He fought off League offers his entire career because of his commitment to Rugby, and only now has he finally had a chance to shine in the Reds set up. A Genia, Cooper, Kuridrani, Tapuai, Kerevi, O’Connor, Hunt combination is the Reds back line of 2015 IMO

    • Swat

      First time I had ever seen or heard of Kerevi and I’m a fan already. Why hasn’t this guy been starting? Had one of the best performances of any OC in Australia all year. I’m not saying he’s the next big thing but my word he deserves another showing with that performance. Top marks! Well done big fella, love your work.

  • bad ass

    Agreed that the box kick is used far too often. Just giving the ball away. It works ok once or twice in a game on quick turn over ball when the opposition defence hasn’t dropped back, but that should be it! I don’t even like the half doing it to kick out of the 22.
    Jake White seemed to love it when he had SA doing it, and later the Brumbies. The tactic seemed to be that the first chaser pretends to go for the ball but instead really obstructs access to a legitimate player trying to catch it, and then someone like Habana would be the second chaser running through. It only worked because the refs were not penalising the blockers. I’d almost kick a hole in the TV when they did that repeatedly against the Wallabies without getting pinned. It doesn’t seem to work that way when our teams do it. Even the brumbies turn the ball over, and… it is boring! Well done to Phipps/Cheika for not resorting to the box kick.

    • Slug

      Problem with box kick is it is no longer disguised. You can tell from they way every halfback sets himself to firstly pick up the ball and then execute the box kick. It is so different from when they pick and pass that you can read it. That is why so many box kicks are getting touched/ blocked.

      • bad ass

        Yeah, the not so sneaky look over the top of the ruck by the half back definitely gives it away. It’s almost as if the half back is in slow motion for the opposition’s benefit. Normally, If the half back bolts to the breakdown on quick turn over ball and without looking just quickly snap boxes it, 90% of the time the defenders are too shallow to collect it. Works better with back spin kicks so the ball bounces awkwardly first bounce so that the opposition runners miss the ball running backwards to it, and the attacking chasers running through can collect it running forward. I never see that any more! French winger Dominici collecting the French half’s box kick (after the all blacks over run it) to score against the all blacks and knock them out of the 1999 world cup semi final. Josh Cromfeld cried like Nancy Kerrigan.

  • brumby runner

    A great game by the Tahs, and a very good, incisive analysis by Bob. Highlanders could very well show this weekend that they are the top province in NZ, and if they do or at the very least show that they are close to the Crusaders, what does that mean for the Tahs? Almost shoe-ins for the title this year imo. And great news for the Wallabies as well so long as Link adopts (and adapts only at the margins) the same game plan. The big runners coming in at pace is one of the differentiating aspects of the Tahs game, as is their preference for running instead of kicking. How faw kicks did they make (not only box kicks but general play kicks) compared with the Highlanders? At one stage I think the statistics were more than two to one to the Highlanders. What a pity Potgeiter isn’t a Wallaby. Was my pick as MOTM on the weekend amongst a lot of exceptional performances.

    • JPQ

      I think you’re mostly right – the Waratahs certainly look
      like a great side at home, which is obviously ideal for them because they have qualified first.

      But some people are too ready to suggest the Wallabies adopt an approach that works well a super rugby level as gospel for international rugby. The Waratahs approach on Sunday worked because they were able to create space through quick ruck ball and big runners getting over the advantage line. They were also dominant at scrum time. The quality ball and space created meant that their quality (absolutely superb) backs could be utilised.

      But the Highlanders are not the Crusaders, against whom it will be far more difficult to get clean ruck ball and to get over the advantage line. The Saders have arguably the best loose forward trio in the comp and the best tight 5.

      The same goes for the Wallabies vs Abs, where the Abs have, on the face of it, a far stronger tight 5 (consisting mostly of Crusaders). ENG and SA have massive forward packs also.

      So…the Wallabies will need to play a slightly different game to the Waratahs. A bit more kicking will be required.

      • Patrick

        A bit more, sure. But the basic points you are overlooking are:
        – those same teams (Cru and ABs) also have possibly the best kick-return around;
        – the uncertainty in execution of a kicking habe is greater (unless you are south African or have Johnny Wilkinson) than a tight drives and passing with good support (provided only that the whole team has brought into the support part! );
        – Australia and the Tahs have looked much better with tight drives followed by quick flat ball – we do have the skills to execute that!

      • Luke Amasi

        The damn ARU let Douglas go, isn’t it the darndest thing considering his work rate, minimal mistakes and size that he adds to a tight 5. It’s a shame but I guess Skelton is being mentored into that role, but I doubt, ‘big Will’, will ever have the same match length over a season longevity as Douglas.

        • Pclifto

          Agree it’s a shame we are losing Douglas. Strangely, though, I thought he was completely anonymous in the first half on Sunday – probably why he got hooked at half time…

        • Luke Amasi

          That is true, I also saw him go down in the first half, I figured they took him off as an injury precaution. Although as the saying goes ‘when you don’t notice your locks, you know they are playing well’

        • Slug

          He might have been injured but his body height in the scrum and taking the ball forward was too high. Same thing happened in the French test. Unless he strengthens his legs and drives for lower body height he is going to fall by the way side.

        • Hooper for PM

          did anyone notice that Paddy Ryan was replaced by Tilse about 5 minutes after he was put on?

        • Shtinatina

          had an foot or ankle issue, can’t remember which one

      • bad ass

        Let’s not get ahead ourselves. The waratahs pack is not better than the all blacks pack. Fortunately, McKenzie can adapt his team and game plan as he sees fit for the occasion and is unlikely to rely only on the current plan that the waratahs are using (to very good effect however). Using the same plan as the waratahs repeatedly will lead to analysis by other teams and ultimately failure. I think that the waratahs are on a winner with it this late in the S15 season though. The wallabies need a different plan but they can certainly use parts of the waratahs game, and I think the big tahs forwards should be part of it with Will Skelton coming on in the second half. Hopefully EM can outsmart the AB on the day. Would love to see Quade unleashing behind the security of that pack with Izzy and K’drani out wide collecting flat passes and kicks to the wings. Not going to happen but Foley is doing a great job.

  • ash

    Can’t agree on Charles, his try was a highlight, other than that he had a shockingly embarassing miss tackle for Kerevi’s try, he spent more time trying to niggle and drop knees in players than ruck, and he threw so many poor balls in the lineout it was a complete lottery for the Force.

    Why do people see a try scored at the end of the game and have to praise the player?

    Oh, and Tahs – fantastic. Another 3 games like the last and they will be Australia’s third team to win the title.

    • CaptJack

      Only need to win the last 2 of 3……go TAHS!

  • Stin

    I’d love to see Cheika use this next game to check out Naiyavaro’s stuff. Could be a potential (not so hidden) weapon. Him up against Nadolo could be interesting.

  • Harv

    Emphatically agree about the excellence of the Waratahs. Great to see them impose themselves on the game and the opposition and as Bob noted, one of the sweetest mercies was the blessed absence of box kicks. We all know the ABs and the Crusaders and every other friggin ‘hard but wise’ team will slow it down at the breakdown and interrupt the flow, but stuff it. I’d rather them lose than give in to that cynicism. If this mob does win the lot it will be a positive message for the game everywhere.

NSW Waratahs

If you don't know Bob Dwyer is the world cup winning coach of the 1991 Wallabies, then give yourself an uppercut. He did a load in between, but he now runs Bob Dwyer's Rugby Workshops, which you can read more about on his site.

More in NSW Waratahs