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.
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.
The G&GR MOTM
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.
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.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Mtembu, Bosch, van Wyk
Conversions: Bosch (2)
Penalties: Bosch (6)
Tries: Folau (2)
Conversions: Robinson (2)
Cards & citings
Yellow: Dempsey (lifting cleanout at breakdown).