It was agony and ecstasy. Death and glory. Victory and defeat.
Whatever side of the fence you are on, it was a cracking finish to a pretty good game. The Reds scored a try after the buzzer to take the game 25-21 from the Tahs, who looked like a lock with mere seconds to go. It was a brutal, physical game, with both sides looking good at times. Expect both to feature at the business end of the season.
First up the crowd were treated to an exhibition of Subbies rugby, courtesy of Balmain and Petersham. All eyes were on the ‘caveman’ Sebastian Chabal, who was here for one game and one game only. His locks were flowing, his beard was scratchy, and he had a few very classy touches including a try under the sticks from close range. But largely it seemed he approached the game as casually as his appearances at Sydney landmarks, and spent most of his time on the wing. I can’t remember who won, and frankly I don’t think anyone cared. Both will be crushed by King’s Old Boys this season anyway.
The main event opened with some bruising Palu defence, and an early penalty was converted by Halangahu from long range. Mike Harris hit back soonafter to tie the scores at 3-3 after six minutes. Discipline was an issue for the Tahs in the first half, and they gave away too many soft penalties at the ruck. 3 became 6 and then 9 to the Reds. But it was big Cliffy who would cross the line first after the ball spilled out the back of a Tahs scrum on the Reds line. Hangers failed to convert, but the Tahs gave away a soft penalty after the siren and they went to the sheds at 12-8 to the Cane Toads.
Hangers knocked over an early penalty to draw the Tahs closer in the second stanza, but Harris hit back quickly to make it 15-11 Reds. The game was fairly even for the bulk of the half, with a disallowed try to TPN a key moment. The ball was deemed to have come forward from Kingston to TPN after a pinpoint AAC bomb. In slow-mo it looked flat, if not slightly forward. I thought it was a fair call by the touchie. As both sides rung the changes the game slowed down with both teams set to fight it out like two country nags in the straight at Warracknabeal. Hangers potted a penalty after a few minutes on the Reds line, and the Tahs looked to be slowly getting on top in tight. The pressure was converted into points after new recruit Sarel Pretorius B.I.G darted over from close range after good build up play from the Tahs backs. Hangers converted and the score went to 21-15 to the Tahs.
Harris pegged the score back by 3 as the game entered the final minutes, with the Tahs seemingly a lock for the game. With the clock ticking down they repelled wave after wave of Red attack, and then the turnover came! And then they kicked the fucking ball away! And then the Reds spread the ball wide! And then Shipperley found himself in space! And he fucking scored! The Reds fucking won on the buzzer! What a finish! Enough exclamation marks for you!!
I thought the standard of play was pretty good for the first round. These games are always physical slogfests, and this was no different. The Tahs were direct and at times brutal. They defended well with big hits coming from Palu, TPN and later Lopeni Timani. Once again I thought they struggled a bit for punch around the ruck with ball in hand, with Mumm, Dennis and Douglas too often caught behind the advantage line. The backs were serviceable but slow. Carter was, well… Carter, and Horne had his good and bad moments. AAC struggled to inject himself but what he did was good, while I thought young Tom Kingston looked good out wide. I do wonder if Daniel Halangahu is a Super quality 10 anymore, for mine he was way too slow with ball in hand and the outside men suffered. Sarel Pretorius was given the MoTM and he had a good game but not a barnstormer. He wouldn’t have been my choice.
For the Reds once again it was a solid 15 man effort. In the pigs Beau terrorised every tuck, while Big Kev got through plenty of work. Higgers also threatened. I thought their inside backs were outstanding. Harris ran the backline with aplomb, and his kicking was pinpoint. Tapuai picked up where he left off last season, and I’m reckon he’ll get plenty of time in gold later this season. Digby was also electric every time he touched the ball, but sadly these touches were few and far between. And Shipperley… well he didn’t do much but what he did was pretty good in the end!
Reds 25 (Shipperley try, Harris con, 6 pgs) beat Waratahs 21 (Palu, Pretorius tries; Halangahu con, 3pg). Crowd 32,071. Ref: Jaco Peyper.
Tune back in tomorrow for our full length review.