Preview: Waratahs v Brumbies - Green and Gold Rugby
ACT Brumbies

Preview: Waratahs v Brumbies

Preview: Waratahs v Brumbies

It’s only week 8 but already the Waratahs season is well and truly on the line. Having already completed their two byes, the Tahs have a game in hand but that is cold comfort when you’ve lost your last two matches at home and the only team you’ve beaten is the Reds. The Brumbies are riding high on top of the Aussie conference but can’t afford a slip up with the highflying Melbourne Rebels even with them on the table on points. This match could have big ramifications on the season for both teams. With both sides coming off a bye, they should be fresh and ready to fly into battle on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

The Waratahs

It’s time for the Waratahs to show what they’re made of. Their performances this season have been littered with mistakes and the scrum has been a debacle. The sleek execution that was a feature of their 2014 title run seems like a distant memory with too many linebreaks being squandered by pushing the pass or making the wrong decision. Since getting battered in the first two weeks, the Tahs scrum has steadily improved, however it is still a glaring weakness. After giving away a penalty try last time these teams met in Canberra, it will be take a huge effort from the whole eight to hold firm at scrum time and not allow it to derail their game.

Photo credit: Peter Mitchell

Opportunity beckons for Andrew Kellaway’s starting debut – Photo credit: Peter Mitchell

The Brumbies

There’s no doubt about it. The Brumbies are clearly the best team in the Australian conference but they’re not dominating the opposition as much as they’d like. A last start drubbing at home at the hands of the Chiefs will have left the men from Canberra smarting. The suspension of David Pocock and the forced retirement of Ita Vaea during the week leave the Brumbies short-staffed in the backrow making their job all the more difficult. With only one victory resulting from their last ten trips up the Hume Highway, Sydney hasn’t proven to be a happy hunting ground for the Brumbies. They’ll be desperate to notch another win in Sydney.

Key matchups

The Front Row

It’s interesting to look at a matchup where one side has such an obvious advantage. There is little doubt that the Waratahs are going to feel plenty of pain at scrum time from the stellar Brumbies front row of Scott Sio, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander. Benn Robinson has added some stability to the Tahs scrum but there’s little doubt that they’re missing Tatafu Polota-Nau who is still a week away from returning from a broken arm. Hugh Roach will have a huge job to do to keep the Waratahs competitve at the set piece. One of the most maligned players throughout Australia this season is undoubtedly Angus Ta’avao. He was recruited to replace Sekope Kepu at tight head prop and it’s hard to argue that Ta’avao has made a good fist of things so far. A substandard performance in the scrum combined with poor discipline from Ta’avao has seen coach Daryl Gibson reward the young Tom Robertson with his first Super Rugby start. Robertson has looked good in his limited opportunities and thankfully seems to fulfil his primary role of scrummaging with some degree of skill. The Brumbies front row will undoubtedly be the toughest test he has faced so far.

The Brumbies front row dominance only increases when the benches come into play with future Wallaby Allan Alaalatoa in fine form with able support from Josh Mann-Rea and Les Leuluailii-Makin. A big performance from the Waratahs combination of Paddy Ryan, James Hilterbrand and Ta’avao will be crucial off the pine. It will no doubt make Tahs fans nervous if there is a pressure scrum late in the match.

Scott Sio showing his leg strength as he is tackled by Michael Hooper.

Scott Sio’s ball running has risen to a new level in 2016.

The Playmakers

The return of Kurtley Beale after an elbow injury is absolutely vital for the Waratahs. He has been the bright spark in the attack in 2016 and he’ll need to be at his best if the Waratahs are a hope of winning. His combination with Bernard Foley is now well settled after playing together at 10 and 12 since 2014. In what could be something of a Wallaby audition, they’ll be well matched by Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua. Whereas previous seasons have featured Toomua at 10, he has reverted to inside centre in 2016; the position he plays for the Wallabies. This has enabled Lealiifano to showcase his creativity and strong kicking game to lead the Brumbies around the park.

Aussie derbies are generally very physical battles so it’s likely that neither side will get a huge number of try scoring opportunities. Whichever pairing remains cool under pressure and executes well could very well lead their team to victory.

Photo credit: Peter Mitchell

Bernard Foley on the attack – Photo credit: Peter Mitchell


Fearless Prediction

The Brumbies start this match as favourites with the bookies but the Waratahs will be playing like their lives are on the line. A somewhat experimental backline sees Israel Folau make his first start in the 13 jersey which makes for a mouth watering matchup across the backlines. This game is going to be tight and it would be surprising if there’s more than a try in it at full time. Now is the time for the Waratahs to stand up and show they’re still a quality team.

Tahs by 3.


NSW Waratahs

1. Benn Robinson
2. Hugh Roach
3. Tom Robertson
4. Dean Mumm
5. Will Skelton
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Jed Holloway
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Matt Carraro
12. Kurtley Beale
13. Israel Folau
14. Reece Robinson
15. Andrew Kellaway

16. James Hilterbrand
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Angus Ta’avao
19. Sam Lousi
20. Wycliff Palu
21. Dave Dennis
22. Matt Lucas
23. Dave Horwitz

Match Officials
Referee: Nick Briant
AR1: Brendon Pickerill
AR2: Michael Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith

Thanks to Opta Sports for the statistics.

ACT Brumbies

1. Scott Sio
2. Stephen Moore (c)
3. Ben Alexander
4. Rory Arnold
5. Sam Carter
6. Scott Fardy
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Jordan Smiler
9. Tomas Cubelli
10. Christian Lealiifano (c)
11. Joe Tomane
12. Matt Toomua
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Robbie Coleman
15. Aidan Toua

16. Josh Mann-Rea
17. Allan Alaalatoa
18. Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin
19. Tom Staniforth
20. Michael Wells
21. Joe Powell
22. James Dargaville
23. Nigel Ah Wong

  • Brisneyland Local

    Will, good write up! Was surprised by your prediction at the end. But a most enjoyable read!

  • Kokonutcreme

    Match of the round for me, so many juicy subplots and games within the game. Can’t wait

    Brumbies give away the most penalties so Tahs fans will be hoping Foley has his kicking boots on, his absence a contributing factor to the Tahs poor goal kicking success rate of 58% for the season.

    Brumbies need to convert pressure and possession into more tries, they have all the weapons across the park.

    • Stuey

      Interesting that people always seem to bring this up. So far this season, according to stats on ESPN Rugby, the Tahs have given away 62 penalties from 5 matches, the Brumbies have given away 63 penalties from 6 matches. So technically, yes they have given away more penalties than the Waratahs, having played an extra match.
      Going by that I think Brumbies fans will be very glad Christian DOES have his kicking boots on this year, as the Tahs are giving away a lot of penalties.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice article mate. I’m picking it the other way but I must admit if Beale stops crabbing and wild offloading to not get tackled it could be a good contest out there. be interesting to see Folau at centre as I thought he looked a bit out of place there previously. Not as much room to play there and I’m not sure he has the defensive lines sorted yet. Mind you if Beale gives him room to move he could be pretty devastating. Should be a cracker

  • Pedro

    Great write up Will, I can’t help but think you tipped the tahs just to cause a stir though.

    The tahs aren’t a bad team and have some class about them but they will be destroyed if there are a handful of early scrums. The brumbies back row will miss Pocock, but they’ll all be playing for Vaea, maybe for the rest of the season.

    These matches are usually close but I’m tipping the brumbies by 12. The bench is rightly where the tahs should be afraid.

    • Braveheart81

      I think it’s very much a coinflip but have a feeling the Tahs will just get home. They’ll be much better than they were against the Rebels two weeks ago.

      The starting Tahs scrum will be much better than the one that faced the Brumbies in week 2.

      I’m surprised so many people are questioning me tipping the Tahs. Clearly I’m a Tahs fan but I genuinely think they will win this game.

      • Pedro

        Yeah, they have a shot but the Brumbies should put them to bed early. I guess time will tell with the scrum, you never know, sometimes there just aren’t that many of them.

        • Braveheart81

          Good photos by the way!

        • Pedro

          Cheers, always a pleasure.

  • Lee Grant

    That was a top preview Will and well-written.

    Having followed their schoolboy careers at close quarters, a little tear will come to my eye as Tomas Robertson and Andrew Kellaway run on for their first starting games.

    Although the early elevation of AK was pre-ordained, it was not the case with THP Robbo who we didn’t expect to start for another year or two given the demands of the position for a 21-year-old – and especially because he was in Team Rehab for an age before the season started..

    But he seemed to be holding his own in the scrums in his stints from the bench to date – and he has always been good around the park.

    And I thought that AK would get his first start on the wing to learn his trade as a professional player (as Folau did, if I remember right), but he is thrown in at the deep end as fullback. Attacking comes naturally to him but it will be his ability as a custodian that will define his career.

    Of course that, and the injury to Horne, and maybe partly to that of Guildford, means that Folau gets his chance to start at outside centre. rather just to appear there from time-to-time in attack.

    Izzy had his worst game as a rugby player last time out; so his switch to the centres may not be good timing, though it will be chock-full of interest. At least Wallaby team mate Tevita Kuridrani will go easy on him so he can settle into the position – sure.

    His position next to Beale could be a brilliant combo or a lucky dip: I hope that KB doesn’t throw too many fast late passes but gives Izzy time and room to do his thing.

    You can’t accuse coach Gibson of not trying things to get out of the rut.

    As for the Brumbies – they should have it all over the Tahs at the set piece and in other areas but they can go missing for big chunks of games themselves, such as the first half in Canberra in the first Tahs’ game and last time out against the Chiefs in the 4th quarter.

    Not to the point but good luck to Ita Vaea in his forced retirement – he can be be proud of what he has done in trying circumstances.

    • Mica

      Hi Lee,

      Do you expect that Carraro will defend at 12 and Kurtley will shuffle out to the wing on defensive duties or will he be employed as a sweeper with Phipps in the front line?

      If the Tahs play Kurtley and Folau at 12 and 13 in defense (and I don’t think they will) I would be running most of my back line plays through those channels and could see a number of line breaks coming in this area.

      • Braveheart81

        I think it is quite likely that Carraro will defend at 12. It is my guess that is the major reason he has been kept on the wing rather than playing 13 again as he did against the Rebels.

      • Lee Grant

        I think Phipps should remain the sweeper. I think he’s the best halfback-sweeper in the country and it’s not something he gets a lot of credit for.

        In another rugby universe I’d like him as sweeper in the Sevens. He is surprising fast also and has a big engine for that form of the game.

        I’d play Kurtley on the wing on defence.

      • Pedro

        I think have KB on the wing would also take some pressure off AK47 in FB and give the tahs more counter attacking panache.

  • While I have been as dismayed as anyone with Ta’avou’s performance this year, I think Gibson would have started him under normal circumstances. Angus has been in Samoa all week after the death of his grandfather and only lands at Mascot on Saturday morning.

    Needs must. If Robertson has a blinder he may well keep his starting spot for the season. That will mean the scrum will be held up by the two Robbo’s, and this week by the three R’s.

    • npivag

      If Robertson achieves scrum parity, makes 8+ tackles for 2 or less misses, and has good ruck attendance, he’ll go on the spring tour and get some cheeky minutes.

      Such is Australia’s depth at tight head. Would the Brumbies please move Alaalatoa back to TH!

  • Nutta

    Donkeys will eat the Tarts scrum and lineout. Then when the Donkeys aren’t playing field position the Donkeys will send Boppa after Boppa at Foley & KB channel. KB will thus feel he must overplay behind a beaten pack and finish up crabbing. Thus Dizzy will be wasted running set lines in shrinking space. The biggest chance for the Tarts is at the breakdown with Hoops having no Poey to contend with. So if the Donkeys do go wide then Hoops will cause them pain. Donkeys should win comfortably but with local darbys you just never know.

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