By guest writer Hoss with thanks from GaGR.
Look, I blame Graham Cooper.
The Tah’s were in this contest, evenly matched, keen, fit and more than capable, then that mongrel blew ‘time on’ and well, it was largely downhill from there, and you know the rest.
Played in front of a bumper crowd of approximately 317 people, it was a night of firsts for the Reds in Sydney – a record score and a first win since 2013, seven tries to one and all this with the Northern Invaders barely ever getting out of second gear.
The reality for my beloved Tah’s is that they are playing to their current levels. The result was absolutely in line with their current levels of skill, their levels and connections as a team and to their current levels of experience.
In preparation for my guest gig reporting on this game I actually turned to the stats of the two sides to gain better insight. To my surprise the stat’s, If you didn’t know that the Reds were first on the SRA Table and the Tah’s were, well, the opposite of first, the stats before the start of round 6 were actually very, very similar. Check them out for yourselves here https://www.rugby.com.au/match-centre/356/2021/356182
Of course statistics are but one small contributor, are always historical in nature and rarely do they quantify the ‘grey matter’ or the ‘1%’s’ of a game and here, as was evidenced tonight the Tah’s fell well and truly short.
There is no shortage of will or endeavour by those in blue, there is however a dearth of Rugby IQ or IP though and therein lies the rub. The solution is painful, it’s purely dependent on time and executive will. Seven rounds into the comp and the folly of the NSW Executive to ‘save money’ on the player roster has been laid bare. You have a team of young men, good men, trying hard in what must be a very intense climate. My question for another time for the Executive Arm of the Tah’s is ‘what price monetary savings? What is the organisation saving really – compared to the actual commercial and human capital losses being experienced right now? But I digress.
For the Tah’s Tizzano put in another terrific shift and is a ball of pure physical intent wrapped in an angry body mixed with healthy doses of mongrel thrown in for good measure. In my opinion he could be the only Tah player invited to Moses’ PONI gathering from tomorrow. Perese repaid the faith of his coaches and was strong. The price of admission was worth it alone for him and Paisami to bash each other in the first 40. Foketi was also pretty good with the fractured fruit he got. The reality is the Tah’s are soft up front. You could have Jehovah himself at 10-15, and it wouldn’t matter when the engine room coughs and splutters like a Lada Niva.
There’s a saying I throw at my teams from time to time ‘we judge ourselves by our intent, other judge us by our actions’. Have a look at Harry Johnson-Holmes on the halftime break in the sheds. Cockbain is talking, the team are eyes and heads-up and engaging. HJH – chewing his nails, looking at the floor and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else. To be fair if I was opposing The Abattoir at scrums maybe my heart wouldn’t be in it either.
As an extension of that, watch the Tah’s warm up. I counted 4 dropped balls during warm up and the obligatory (and folks, this REALLY shits me) 3-4 players running in and giving the ‘it’s alright’ bum tap. Disney has a great saying – ‘the standard you walk past is the standard you accept’. What was the standard the Tah’s accepted?
Anyhow – enough on the Tah’s. The brutal truth is they are at where they are and improvements will be gradual and 18+ months in the making. It’s a matter of who blinks first now.
What do we make of the Reds? Is it good that they didn’t get out of second gear and won by daylight? Or is it a bit concerning that they just lacked a touch of ruthlessness? If they want to be the best and (drumroll) I firmly believe they can, they need to be more ruthless. Rhetorical question, ‘how much would the Crusaders have won by tonight’? To win the whole thing with teams from the Shaky isles involved, they must improve, certainly I think they can and by some way.
That said they are a well-coached, well-connected and intelligent Rugby side. They have clarity of role, skill, pace and size all over the park and in my opinion potentially the best Oz side since the reds of 2011 or the Tah’s of 2014.
Eru justified his start. He has a great engine, silky skills and a good reader of the game. I believe he will surely be in the PONI squad of Sunday. Daugunu was terrific, and I love how he gets involved and his propensity for the hard stuff at ruck time. JOC2.0 was all class and I love how he underplays his role and injects himself at key times. This in turn allows McDermott to dictate play and that also grows him as a leader and a player ad that’s the success of the Reds right there. They invested, they identified a succession plan, they planned for pain, all bought into the vision of the padre a few years back and like a good investment they are reaping the results now – NSW Executives anyone paying attention??
History will show that on this night on display in Sydney there were two rugby sides at very different junctures of time on their rugby journeys. At approx. 20 minutes into the first half the Tah’s locks packed down for a scrum with a combined 4 Super Rugby matches to their name. The Tah’s have a #9 who never runs, a #10 who runs sideways a starting #1 & #3 who are the ‘Men from Uncle’ – entirely invisible. In Bell, Tizzano, Harris & Harrison they have young bucks to build off, but only time will tell who buckles first.
Special mention to Angus Scott-Young on his 50th cap. He’s a player that never gets the plaudits he deserves, doesn’t do the flash stuff, but boy oh boy, what would the Tah’s give for someone like him, that through his actions he lays the platform for the ‘big names’ to do what they do. He has long been the consummate team man.
But before you start beating your chests red fans, it isn’t all bad news for NSW. Wipe the toothless smiles from your face as verily I say this to you all – he whom laughs last laughs loudest.
The economy of NSW is the big winner from tonight’s match. The chiropractors straightening our props spines courtesy of the Abattoir and co, the sports psychologists employed to mend bruised, damaged psyches, the Dan Murphy retailer’s boost in sales from depressed Tah’s fans sourcing bottled mood conditioner and the additional staff required at the Sports Recruitment Agency charged with finding ‘Dead Man Walking’ Coach Penney’s replacement. It’s a huge win for our economy and those of us who reside in the chosen lands, in these unusual and perilous economic times.
You may have won the game, but again the great state of NSW wins overall in the game of life.
Take that Queensland.
The Game Changer
Referee blowing time on.
The G&GR MOTM
Tate McDermott, only just ahead of Seru Eru. Tate was energetic, played heads-up rugby and looked to keep the tempo up all match. Not to mention the diminutive #9 put one of our starting locks out of the game with a ‘hit’ – for shame, for shame.
Score & Scorers
Penalties: Harrison 3
Tries: McDermott, Salakaia-Loto, Daugunu, Tupou, Mafi 3
Conversions: O’Connor 2 Hegarty 2
YC – Nongorr