NSW Waratahs



In my preview on Thursday, I suggested that this game was between one team high on confidence and one at the other end of the scale. And, in the nature of confidence, one team played its game plan with confidence and the other played its gameplan without any. The result was ugly watching.

The Match

A summary of the game could be made from the first minute of play. The Sharks kicked off, Waratahs fielded the ball, couple of rucks and Phipps did a box kick which was charged down. There were a couple of rucks and the Sharks spread it wide and the winger went in unopposed in the corner. Unconverted. Sharks 5 – Waratahs 0. It was then rinse and repeat punctuated by the occasional Folau flourish and the usual Waratah yellow card for a lifting tackle.

The first 25 minutes was just total Shark domination, despite Lambie going off with an injury. Because of their limitations as a team, the score was only 18-0, it should have been worse. Then there was a period of several minutes of sustained Waratah attack, a Hegarty chip kick that Folau pounced on and scored. Could this be the beginning of a revival? No. Two Shark penalties made it Sharks 24-7. Then Hegarty threw a rubbish pass to Simone’s shoulder, the Sharks picked up the scraps and ran in to score. At half time, it was Sharks 31 – Waratahs 7; the Sharks had scored three tries, all from Waratah errors.

The Waratahs started the second half by conceding a penalty from the kick-off, but then great work by Kepu to charge down a kick, with good support from Dempsey saw Folau to cut through and score under the posts. Sharks 31 – Waratahs 14. Folau then got offside, Sharks 34- Waratahs 7 and then there were a number of inconclusive kicking duels. Gibson rang the changes but as each new player came on their first interaction was a bad error. Or so it seemed. The game meandered to a conclusion, with the Sharks kicking another penalty before the end for a final score of 37-14.


The Sharks are a limited team, but play to a gameplan that covers up their limitations. Their forward pack is very physical; they clearly won the collision battle and knocked the Waratahs backwards time and again. Their backs won’t break open a set defence but are quite good finishing off attacks from broken play and opposition errors. They will fight for the losers spot with the Jaguares and probably take it; whereupon they will play a NZ team who will expose their limitations ruthlessly.


What was exposed in this game was the lack of fundamental skills in the Waratahs players. Phipps skills were awful, Hegarty was good and bad (mainly bad) till he got fatigued and then he was just bad. If Dempsey hadn’t been carded for the lifting tackle, Robinson could have been, that would have been two yellows in seven days for the same offence. Toleafoa dropped his first pass cold and then wasn’t sighted for the rest of the game. Wells became more invisible as the game went on. Gibson has huge problems. If he can fix them it will be the making of him as a coach. They won’t make the finals on this performance.

The Game Changer

Phipps being charged down on a box kick in the first minute. The Waratahs never recovered.


In an undistinguished field, my MotM was Phillip van der Walt. For the Waratahs, Kepu, Latu, McDuling, Dempsey (despite his dumb YC) Folau and Kellaway were the best of a bad lot.

Wallaby watch

Latu was good, Kepu had a much better game, Phipps was awful and should be dropped from the 23, Folau conceded an offside penalty but was otherwise untackleable and Kellaway did some good things.

The Details

Crowd: Unknown

Score & Scorers

Sharks: 37
Tries: Mtembu, Bosch, van Wyk
Conversions: Bosch (2)
Penalties: Bosch (6)
Waratahs: 14
Tries: Folau (2)
Conversions: Robinson (2)
Penalties: nil

Cards & citings

Yellow: Dempsey (lifting cleanout at breakdown).

  • Tommy Brady

    Nick Phipps and Rob Horne sum up this Waratahs side. Low on pace, flair, skills and threat. Are the Waratahs the worst side in the Australian conference, or are they the best?

    • nmpcart

      What’s scary is that both Phipps and Horne are key players for Cheika, What does that say about the Wallabies chances?

      • Chinese Dave

        I doubt Cheika will keep Phipps on current form. I doubt Gibson will too. Problem is, who is lighting up the stands with their scintillating form right now? Maybe Joe Powell, but that is a potential more than current ability pick.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          Why did Gibson leave Phipps on the field for so long? If you were running a company and one of your managers kept on losing money and making it harder for the whole company to function, with his decision making, you’d take action pronto. Why are Rugby coaches any different?

  • Jamie Miller


  • Brisneyland Local

    Wow and I thought it was hard being a Red’s fan! That was really awful. I know fellow GAGR’s know I am not the biggest Phipp’s fan out there. But in all the otehr matches I shit canned him, in comparison he was ok. In that game he well and truly sucked the big one. This is not good for Aus rugby.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Firstly well played Sharks and their fans. You were all over us like a rash and without a shadow of doubt the better team won. Frankly it felt more like we lost by more than the final score. I mean we just did not seem to have an answer to the pace, precision and power of the Sharks. Our lack accuracy and poor option taking was in stark contrast to a Shark’s team that I hoped would be affected by the trip back to Africa.

    As a Tahs fan, through and through, I like sticking up for my boys when people are putting in the slipper, but they aren’t giving me much to work with these last 2 weeks. Pack your bags boys, come on home and regroup.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Really pathetic display. Phipps was especially bad even by his low standards.

    I think you’re being a little unfair to the Sharks’ backs though. They actually made a lot of line-breaks and almost always had multiple support runners to offload too. As you say they aren’t a fantastic backline by any stretch, but they’re efficient and they do their job well.

    About the only positive of the Waratahs’ performance was Folau, once again, showing his abilities as a finisher of opportunities. The fact that he has rarely shown the ability to create opportunities himself from either the centres or fullback should have Gibson considering moving back to the wing.

  • Muzz

    The box kick seemed to be a big part of the game plan. Issues with this 1 it’s not a very good tactic when used repeatedly, 2 it was telegraphed so the Sharks put heaps of pressure on resulting in charge downs and rushed kicks, 3 execution from 9 was shit, 4 chase was shit. So it was terribly ineffective but they kept doing it. Can we think on the run here?

    On Hegarty I think he’s quite a decent footballer but not sure where his best position is, it’s not 5/8.

    Ball handling was abysmal and low percentage plays prevailed.

    The Waratahs attack was easily handled by the Sharks defence as they just fanned out whenever the Tahs fling the ball from sideline to sideline which they did a lot. In this sort of situation the physical drain is on the attackers and it can be deflating to be throwing the ball around adventurously but not moving forward.

  • Rebels3

    Watched this game when I got up this morning. Terrible! I had to look at the line up for the tahs again after the loss and it’s a decent team they put out. One that when evaluated man to man against their opponents you’d think they have a serious chance of winning.

    All this talk about removing a side to improve others got me thinking this tahs team on paper is already good enough to be a match for any team. You had latu, Robinson, kepu all wallabies in the front row, mumm (despite how average he is) a wallaby at lock, hooper at flanker and Dempsey someone who’s touted as a real potential player in the mix as well. The backup wallaby 9, the nrc player of the year, folau at 13, Horne on the wing and kellaway another touted for future honors. 5 of them were in the team that played a World Cup final 2 years ago. So what’s going wrong? I’m seriously starting to think the issue isn’t if we are producing quality players, it’s the fact that players that were once on top of their game are getting worse. So coaching at the highend. Particularly the super rugby level, there is massive systemic issues at all clubs.

    • Muzz

      You’re onto something there Rebel

  • OlderIGet

    Look away fellow Tahs fans. Look away. If you taped it, delete it. If you have something else to do, get it done. Walk your dog, water the garden, wash the car.

    • Arty

      Too late……aarrgg!

    • le roo

      I wish I’d read this comment two hours ago.

  • Huw Tindall

    I think the Tahs are only a couple of players short of an excellent side. Namely someone who can kick and a legitimate big bopper/enforcer in the pack.

    The continued problems getting out of their own half highlight what I think is the biggest tactical flaw in the Waraths game plan. Compared to the likes of England’s Ben Youngs box kicking in the 6 Nations and it’s flat out embarrassing. They regularly get 40m from a box kick and we can’t get 30m from punt. It just means the Waratahs are playing far too much football in their own half and tiring out the players trying to endlessly truck it up. Smart kicking and playing the game in the opposition half would make a world of difference to the Tahs side. If I were Gibson I’d be finding a halves pairing who can kick the leather off the ball. I’d have the un-inventive Owen Farrell or Dan Biggar over pop guns Foley and Hegarty in this Tahs side. Better compliment to the rest of the back line. Worryingly this is not a new problem. It’s now the 3rd year in a row where this element of the game has hampered the Tahs. At least we’ve got guys like Hodge and DHP at Wallaby level who can get us out of our half.

    We are also missing a decent big bopper in the forwards. When Palu and Jackpot were steaming around field back in 2014 we could really dent some teams in attack and defense. Skelton has the bulk but we need a more dynamic wrecking ball as well. Dempsey and Hooper and lock ins…Wells has put in good efforts but just isn’t the player we need. Can Jed Holloway provide this roll? Not sure. He is more like Dempsey…great runner and handy in the lineout. Was hoping Ned Hanigan would step up this year in the second row but injury is preventing us getting a look at him.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate it looked to me to be a lot more than just that. I absolutely agree that what you say is correct but I think there is also a big attitude problem that needs to be sorted out. They just don’t seem to be there mentally

    • joy

      “At least we’ve got guys like Hodge and DHP at Wallaby level”
      Even then they hand Foley the ball.

  • Andy

    I say this again. Coaching in Australian rugby is just not up to scratch. Rarely do players with potential get better. Phipps is a great example of this. Love his determination but he has not improved in the fundamentals since his debut for the Rebels.

    • Chinese Dave

      This is such a good point. It seems that as soon as players get to SR level, they plateau. With very few exceptions (Adam Coleman maybe), I’m stretched to name a player who has improved year on year on year in one of our SR teams.

    • BF

      What needs to be tabled, is our game management at Super rugby and national levels. Which other rugby nation has their #7 – their main ball winner, their main breakdown competitor playing 1-in from the wing?
      How can we expect to compete when we train not to compete?

      hooper simply has to get over the ball – but he doesn’t do it (or can’t do it) his body height at the breakdown – when he’s there is dreadful (too high).

      We picked Pocock at #8 to compensate for hooper’s lack of breakdown effectiveness, we pick mumm at #6 to compensate for the set piece.

      pick a #7 to do a #7’s job
      pick a #6 to do a #6’s job
      pick an #8 to do an #8’s job.

      I read Liam Gill is playing the house down in France!!

      • joy

        He looks very good over there.

  • Arty

    That was so hard to watch. Serious problems with the coaching, Gibson has been with this club long enough to have the necessary connect but the team is going backwards.
    Poor play in SA games. Looked like the easybeats on tour. No game is easy but a Team like the Tahs should be a threat in every match. Playing well and losing is quite acceptable, thats Rugby, playing poorly consistantly is unacceptable. Apart from a Sunday afternoon home game last year its been a drought of Rugby.

  • Bernie Chan

    How can the two scrum halfs that are the ‘anointed’ back-ups to Genia (Phipps and Frisby…) be so poor at the fundamentals of scrum half play.. they are slow and erratic with their pass, poor decision making (box kicking to uncontested areas and repeatedly giving away possession), poor tackling and no running threat…no flyhalf could look good outside either Phipps or Frisby…not even Larkham. Have watched more minutes of the Reds games than the TAHs games, and Frisby has played himself out of Wallabies contention methinks…his service in severely restricting a decent back line.

NSW Waratahs

Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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