Highlanders crush woeful Waratahs - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Highlanders crush woeful Waratahs

Highlanders crush woeful Waratahs

The Highlanders have blitzed the Waratahs 49-12 to keep their small finals hopes alive. The match was hardly a contest in the first half, with the Highlanders facing more competition from racing the clock than the Waratahs, running in 6 tries in the first half to race out to a 42-7 lead at the break.

Whilst the Waratahs showed some fight after the break, it was ultimately in vain as the Highlanders were simply too strong for the understrength Waratahs, who will rue failing to rest their key players at earlier stages of the season.

The Match

The Waratahs got off to a nightmare start after Josh McKay put a lovely kick through into space, exposing the Waratahs back three before forcing the error from a gallant Will Miller to pounce on the loose ball to score the opening try of the match.

The Highlanders would double their score inside 10 minutes after excellent counter-rucking by Jackson Hemopo caused the turnover, allowing Waisake Naholo to sprint down the sideline before Tevita Lit capitalised on the strung-out Waratahs backline to cross in the corner.

Josh Ioane would continue his solid night with the boot, converting from the sideline to make it 14-0 against the Waratahs and 14-10 against the clock.

The Highlanders would continue their dominance, camping inside the Waratahs 22 for the best part of 19 phases, with Thomas Franklin finally finding a way through the defence to extend their lead out to 21-0 after 20 minutes.

This was followed just minutes later through Naholo who muscled his way through the soft defence from Ashley-Cooper to score under the dot for a 28-0 lead after 24 minutes.

The Waratahs would finally show some resistance after Lalakai Foketi caused a turnover at the break-down, with Mack Mason putting through a pinpoint kick for Curtis Rona, who found support from Hugh Sinclair who raced away to draw to fullback to allow Alex Newsome to score.

Unfortunately, this resistance was futile, with the Highlanders striking back in the form of a penalty try from a rolling maul after Tom Robertson was deemed to have entered the maul from the side, resulting in the try and a stint on the sideline for 10.

The Highlanders took full advantage of the missing prop, dominating the Waratahs scrum after Mason over-kicked the restart for the second time in the half. This provided perfect field possession to allow Teihorangi Walden to score from the crash ball by Aaron Smith to push the score-line out to 42-7 at half time.

Aaron Smith, Aaron Smithing.

Aaron Smith, Aaron Smithing.

After a rapid first half, both teams seemed drained at the start of the second half, trading sloppy handling mistakes and penalties throughout the first twenty minutes of the second half. Both teams failed to gain any traction during this period, with the biggest metre gainer coming by a streaker during the 60th minutes.

The Waratahs would finally show their class in the 65th minutes when the combo of Miller and Wells caused the turnover on the 50-metre line, providing the side with great field possession to allow them to attack.

They were ultimately rewarded when Mason found Will Miller close to the wing, who took advantage of a three on one overlap, passing to Tasi who would draw the fullback to reward Mason for starting the break with his first Super Rugby try.

This effort seemed to revitalise the Highlanders who controlled possession and field territory for the remaining 10 minutes of the match, which was capped off by a 50m run by Rob Thompson to ice the contest and give the Highlanders a 49-12 bonus point win.

The Turning Point

Besides the opening whistle, the real turning point was the last month of play, in which Gibson and the NSW staff failed to rest key players, ensuring that they were forced to play a weakened NSW side who had little continuity with each other.


Tough to single out just one player, but Rob Thompson was dominant in defence and attack, running for 100m from 12 carries, along with four broken tackles and a try. Credit must go to Li, Smith and Squire for their efforts in blowing out the Waratahs throughout the match.

Wallaby Watch

Tough to do a Wallaby Watch with so many of the Waratahs “Wallaby” contingency rested and conceding 42 points in the first half. However, Will Miller was solid across the match despite his error during the first try along with committed performances from Curtis Rona and Michael Wells.


Highlanders 49

Tries: McKay (7′), Li (10′), Franklin (19′), Naholo (24′), Penalty Try (35′), Walden (39′), Thompson (80′)
Cons: Ioane 5/5 (8′, 11′, 19′, 24′, 39′), Dixon 1/1 (80′)

Waratahs 12

Tries: Newsome (29′), Mason (71′)
Cons: Mason 1/2 (29′)
Cards: Robertson (35′) – side entry to a maul in a try-scoring position

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nathan. Spot on with the mismanagement of the resting throughout the season. I think Mason showed enough that if he went to a decent club where he got game time and coaching he could develop into a good little player. Laughed my arse off when Gibson pulled off Staniforth, who was actually doing well and left powder puff Hanigan on. To me that sort of sums up the mismanagement of this team. Gibson should never have been extended and the Waratahs will never move forward until he goes

    • Nathan Williamson

      From what I’ve seen of Mason in the Shute Shield he definitely has the talent, I think he’s been chucked out of the plane with no parachute by Gibson during this season. In regards to Hanigan, I’m not sure why he stayed on/what’s going on with him, he was actually pretty solid during the first half of the year but hasn’t seemed to find his footing since his injury

      • Sevenwithasixonmyback

        Mack Mason certainly stands out at Shute level. There is little point in having young talent on the bench if they are not going to be properly mentored and allowed to have proper game time. To have him sit on a bench and miss playing at club level for the privilege, denies a competitive athlete what it is he seeks to do. Better to have him run around and compete with the Beasties than have him simply wallow in the wings, waiting for an opportunity that never comes or if it does lasts only minutes. That does nobody any good.
        Athletes play to win or lose. That’s where they get their thrill. Being a tackling-bag doesn’t cut it. I’d be surprised if Mason doesn’t look elsewhere, as he’s not been respectfully developed to succeed Foley in the 10 next season. He will remain a bench player at the Tahs and that should piss him off. It would me.

        • Ben Fox

          Needs to go to NZ like the Chiefs 10

  • Howard

    It really was boys against men in that first half. When will Oz teams get rid of aimless kicking? And kicking off into the in goal twice not good enough at this level. Need to get some serious signings if that game is an indication of the future after post WC retirements.
    Small note. Robertson got carded, not HJJ

    • Nathan Williamson

      May be a long 2020 if they can’t recruit some quality talent. Thanks for the note regarding HJH/Robertson, not sure why I got it wrong since I initially wrote it up correct in the expanded match report.

      • Andy

        With all those big name players coming off contract surely they will have some room to invest. But alas, I don’t think they will have the funds to get what they need for immediate improvement. I think they just need to bite the bullet and go through some proper generational change including which includes culture.

  • joy

    I’ll jump off a cliff if the Reds and the Brumbies lose by 50 points tonight.

  • IIPA

    I spent my energy ranting on the Rebels game thread. Suffice to say that momentum is everything and after ten minutes Tahs looking ok and upsetting Landers lineout when in space with men outside Newsome pokes a kick through straight to Josh McKay and thirty minutes later it’s 42-0.

    Once momentum was won the Tahs just rolled over in that first half. The lightweight back row of very good Shute Shield players wasn’t going to work not when paired with a front row barely cracking 300kg and two 6s in the second row. Gee that Roets was a good signing.

    Time for Gibson to go. Lovely guy and you’d think playing in those Crusaders teams that rugby smarts would be automatic.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Why did the Tahs re-sign him before the season started? So baffling, he had only had a modicum of success in three seasons in charge, and then to extend his contract prematurely. Jeez…

  • formerflanker

    What was going wrong with Mack Mason’s restart kicks? Too long, or too low, it seemed that every time he kicked off from the half way we would be back there seconds later.
    I blame Gibson – in his frantic desire to chase wins, he sacrificed long term team development for short term gains. However leaving his best players on the field didn’t work either.

  • Keith Butler

    Very strange that we have plenty of comments on the Rebels and Brumbies games but hardly any on this one. Mind you 42-7 down at half time says it all really.

NSW Waratahs

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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