Review: Waratahs v Highlanders, the drought has broken. - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Review: Waratahs v Highlanders, the drought has broken.

Review: Waratahs v Highlanders, the drought has broken.

The Waratahs hosted Highlanders at Allianz in Sydney, the home side looking to break a nine game losing streak against New Zealand opposition. It was just shy of two years since the Waratahs last beat a side from across the Tasman when they downed the Chiefs in Sydney, and they were coming off a couple of near losses against the Blues and Crusaders.

He did it again. Twice.

He did it again. Twice.

As it turned out, the Tahs ran on to Allianz ready to play and came away with an emphatic 41-12 victory, showing they are the real deal when they play what’s in front of them, to go six points clear on the Australian conference ladder.

The Match:

The Waratahs had the ascendency from the opening whistle, with a steal from the first lineout and a resultant backline charge upfield to deep inside the Highlanders territory. A few minutes and another steal later, Foley put the home side in front with a penalty goal. Soon after, a fumble by Sopoaga from a Beale kick gave the Warathas a scoring opportunity, an opportunity they fully capitalised on with Naiyarovoro crashing over in the corner.

In the 19th minute ‘Highlanders winger Tevita Nebura went up for a high ball and was red carded for what appeared to be a deliberate kick to the face of Cam Clark on the way down. Things only got worse for the visitors shortly after when Aaron Smith got 10 minutes on the pine for a deliberate knockdown.

Although the Waratahs did benefit from the two man advantage with another Naiyaravoro try – his fourth double this season – it could be argued that they didn’t really capitalise on this advantage, through some poor decision making and fundamental errors, and with Smith back on the field the half time score was 15-0 to the ‘Tahs.

Second Half:

The Waratahs returned to the field after the break looking supremely confident and were able to score quickly with an overlap to an in-form Israel Folau. The Highlanders scored almost immediately through Elliot Dixon and the conversion saw the ‘Tahs holding on to a 22-7 lead. Folau was next to score again, the beneficiary of some slick ball handling in what will go down as one of the best tries by the Waratahs this season. Again, however, the Highlanders responded almost immediately with a try of their own to Ash Dixon. 29-12.

The game was then quickly put beyond any doubt with a try to Lalaki Foketi and then Curtis Rona avenging an earlier disallowed try decision. The 41-12 scoreline was then held on to by the home side for the last 10 minutes of the game.

He did it again. Twice.

He did it again. Twice.


They have been indifferent since beating the Reds in Round 9, but their performances over the past two weeks have shown that they have the capability to take on the top sides in the competition and be genuine contenders at the pointy end of the season.


Although they are still well in finals contention, this could come into serious jeopardy as they have to play each of the three NZ sides above them on the ladder again. They are a well drilled side but don’t appear to have the same level of nous and discipline as the other Kiwi sides.

Jake Gordon is all smiles.

Jake Gordon is all smiles. Tom Staniforth had a blinder!

The Game Changer

The red carding of Nebura and subsequent yellow card of Smith helped the ‘Tahs to go to the break with a handy lead and with only 14 men in the second half it was always going to be difficult for the visitors to run down an already ascendant Waratahs side.


I’m going to give this to Foley who directed the play superbly, had 11 carries for 4 clean breaks and 5 defenders beaten and a total of 99 run metres. However a huge honorary mention needs to go to Tom Robertson who had an immense game both in the set piece and the loose play.

Wallaby watch

Outside the current Wallabies in the side who all had solid games, Curtis Rona continues to impress and has clearly been the best 13 of the Australian sides this season so far. Michael Wells also continues to show how much he has grown since last year and could easily be a wider squad inclusion.

The Details

Crowd: Not known.

Score & Scorers

Waratahs 41.
Tries: Naiyaravoro (2), Folau (2), Foketi, Rona
Conversions: Foley (4)
Penalties: Foley (1) 

Highlanders 12 
Tries: E. Dixon, A. Dixon
Conversions: Sopoaga (1)
Penalties: nil

Red & Citing – Nebura – dangerous play
Yellow – A Smith – deliberate knockdown

  • RugbyM

    Not sure if it was a general ‘we can’t let them win 41 in a row’ or the club socks that did it, but… passes that stuck, phases that ended in tries, not knock ons or turn overs.
    Still some basic errors here and there but an overall much improved performance.

    Having said that, sitting in the crowd, the general feeling afterwards was one of relief more than jubilant celebration.

    Onwards and upwards boys

    • OnTheBurst

      What would you put the crowd at RM?

  • Richard Patterson

    Congratulations to every Waratahs and Australian rugby fan on a very well deserved win. The darkness (excuse the pun) has been lifted and a new dawn unfolds. I trust the celebrations were enjoyable, sleep last night was easier and there is a spring in the step to Sunday activities today.

    Here in my humble are some simple facts. Australian rugby is at it’s best when it is confident. Confidence that emerges from well merited self-belief in preparation, skills, conditioning and mental toughness. Self-belief is fuelled by winning and winning fuels self-belief. Australian rugby has not experienced enough winning so self-belief has not been there. A Waratahs side with self-belief after a gutsy performance in Christchurch last weekend took it one step further last night and thrashed a good Highlanders team who were never allowed into the contest. Now there is confidence, self-belief & winning!!

    I hope last night restores some belief in Super Rugby and questions this notion of Australia retreating to some domestic only competition. Ask those Waratahs players last night how it felt to put a very good performance on a good Kiwi side? How much are they now looking forward to playing a good Chiefs side in Hamilton next weekend? There will be an excitement to training this week that any professional sportsman will tell you is addictive. Big games against big teams. It’s what the great one’s play for.

    Hopefully this also marks a change in the tone of commentary. A whole lot more positive chat about skills displayed, intelligent decision making, clever execution, good tries scored and a nice coaching job on a side that looked shattered 2 weeks ago after a home loss to the Blues. Hopefully it buries for a while the ref bashing and negative mindset about all things Rugby Down Under which all felt needless. We have a great sport. We have a unique competition and if/when Australia starts winning again people will love the matches against the best of South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Japan. Stick that to the NRL, AFL, A-League and whoever else is looking with envy.

    • Gun

      The tahs aren’t my team but that felt great. You’re right in that it does change the mindset. However, part of that positive message is moving forward on changing the flaws in the competion. Thanks for the respectful discussion and contributions Richard.

  • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

    Finally the drought is broken. Quite a weird victory though with the highlanders down to 14 men for 3/4 of the game. That kick to the face was dog act of the year, I wonder how many weeks he will get for that one?!

    • David Creagh

      Not sure that one bit of rain constitutes a breaking of the drought. Barely topped up the bone dry water tanks and dams of Australian Rugby. Need to be beating NZ consistently to have considered breaking the drought. Having said that, good on the Waratahs for a convincing win over the Kilted Ones. The Highlanders will be on a major downer for being the first in 40 games to lose to an Aus side, from memory they were also the last to lose to an Aus side as well.

      • Huw Tindall

        Was actually the Chiefs who the Tahs beat back in 2016! Was a good that day too.

    • Archie

      Hard to imagine that being pre-meditated and malicious; rather instinctive/poor technique… a brain fart if you will. Either way clearly the correct call, no choic but red. Thought the ref had a pretty good game all up.

      Although I did feel sorry for Ben Smith seeing his half back get binned for an ‘intentional’ knock l, then 5 min later having to watch Hooper kill a play by doing the same thing with no subsequent punishment. Bit of Consistency lacking again.

      Overall, I agree with Ben Smith’s comments post game… Tahs played extremely well and thoroughly deserved the win.

      I don’t think this game mattered too much in the context of the Tah’s season. They’re always going to top the Aussie conference – with or without his win – and that’s all the conference system requires of them to reward them with third place and a home quarterfinal (which may be against a team with more comp pts).

      It’s been a hell of a ride for the Kiwi teams… streak had to end some time… why not on 40.

      Perhaps this will be the start of a bit of an Aussie streak?

      • Adrian

        Good comments Archie.

        I heard in refs microphone something like “yes, but it wasn’t to stop a try, so penalty only” re Hooper knockdown

      • Braveheart81

        I disagree on the intentional knock ons. Smith’s prevented a potential try. At a minimum Gordon was clean through a break and would have gone close to scoring. Hooper had 14 Waratahs behind him when he did it. There was no attacking opportunity prevented.

        It was an important win for the Tahs in the context of the Aussie conference. If they’d lost the Rebels are still in touch and have a pretty decent draw coming home including hosting the Tahs which could have been the critical match in deciding the Aussie conference.

        • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

          The entire intentional knock on rule is a farce in the first place. The fact that a player can go for an intercept, be short by an inch so that it knocks on instead of him catching it, and then he be given a yellow card for his effort, is utterly ridiculous. The difference in interpretation between an attempted intercept and a deliberate knock on is purely subjective unless there is a blatant downward motion. Most yellow cards for this rule are given when there is definitely NOT a blatant downward motion. And even in the cases of deliberate blatant downward motion, why do we even care about it to make a rule about it? If an opposition player can get his hand in the way of a pass, then the pass was never on. It makes no sense to me to make a rule about it that can result in a game changing yellow card. It’s the most ridiculous way to ruin a good game of rugby. Even a penalty for it is too much. Just set a scrum and get on with the game.

        • Braveheart81

          The vast majority of unlikely intercepts where a player sticks out one hand to block the ball (and hopes that it might bobble up conveniently so they can possibly catch it) are done when they are outnumbered and can’t cover both attackers. The Aaron Smith one is a classic example. The Tahs were trying to draw and pass and Gordon quite likely scores or at least goes close if the pass goes to hand.

          I don’t really see it as being much different to when a player goes for a miracle turnover but mostly just ends up killing the ball off their feet when the other side is hot on attack from a break and looking for quick ball to score. There’s some small chance they stay on their feet and win the turnover but most likely they will kill the ball and get yellow carded for a professional foul.

          The law exists to discourage what is considered negative play. Similarly players get penalised and yellow carded if they bat the ball into touch or dead in goal, or do any number of infringements when under pressure in defence.

        • Tah Tragic

          BH81 agree. Getting rid of this rule would just create a massive incentive for players to bat the ball down at every opportunity making the game unwatchable. In the case of Smith’s effort if his only punishment is to concede a scrum it still puts the Landers in a much better position; prevented a try and Landers get to reset their defence. A player in this position would do it all day every day so there needs to be a strong punishment to keep the game flowing.
          I actually thought that the ref got the balance right on the weekend (maybe I’m a little biased).

        • Alister Smith

          From memory, the Highlanders also had another intentional knock-on in the second half and it was a penalty only on the basis that there was “no line break”

      • Braveheart81

        I disagree on the intentional knock ons. Smith’s prevented a potential try. At a minimum Gordon was clean through a break and would have gone close to scoring. Hooper had 14 Waratahs behind him when he did it. There was no attacking opportunity prevented.

        It was an important win for the Tahs in the context of the Aussie conference. If they’d lost the Rebels are still in touch and have a pretty decent draw coming home including hosting the Tahs which could have been the critical match in deciding the Aussie conference.

      • Ads

        It’s definitely malicious. He looks at him before kicking him in the face. Agree not premeditated.

      • Mica

        Generally agree though a couple of points.
        I think the leg out is coached to protect the player in the air. The difference here was he kicked out and the leg should be out but straight that way if a player takes you in the air they a face full of boot first. He just mucked it up.
        Secondly I think this win matters a lot in the context of the ‘Tah’s season. If they top the Aus conference they will play a Kiwi team. I’d rather go into that game knowing that I have beaten them before this season than not having beaten them.
        WRT to the subsequent knock downs, Pickerill had made the decision on cards when it was a line break on attack and to not card when it wasn’t a line break opportunity (he explained this a couple of times during the match). Whether this is the right way to do it or not is up for debate, but at least he was consistent with it (There was another instance later in the match where a HL player did the same thing as Hooper and he ruled the same way).

        Update:- I should have read further below as it appears I may have doubled up on a couple of comments…….. oh well :)

  • ForceFan

    Thanks for breaking the drought Tahs…..
    Crowd: Not known.
    Can any attendees provide a knowing estimate.
    I find it totally gob-smacking (replace this word with any that you think is more appropriate) that The Waratahs/Allianz are unable/unprepared to publish real attendance figures for home games – when the attendance is <<10,000.
    No numbers available for Waratahs games against Rebels, Lions, Blues (Brookvale) and now Highlanders.
    The average attendance IS NOT simply the average of only the numbers that the powers that be are prepared to provide.

    • RugbyM

      From my viewpoint:
      SCG end – empty. Zip, no-one (well, 3 kids with their rugby ball)
      Eastern side – looked reasonably full in the lower sections but lots of gaps in-between groups.

      Northern end – lots of gaps.
      Western side – lots of gaps, however my bay was packed. Elbowed my neighbour a few times.

      Under 10000 easily. Maybe 8000 if we were lucky.
      Swans playing next door made the larger SFS/SCG precinct look more populated.

    • Ed

      You will find out what the crowd was in NSW Rugby’s annual report for 2018 when it is released around April 2019. The Brums released its figure, 5283, for the recent Rebels match and the Melbourne side released its figure, 5538, for the game against the Jaguares.
      The Swans had its lowest home crowd so far for the season, 27481, on Saturday night.

      • Alister Smith

        Channel 7 claimed a crowd figure of 5,000 plus at Manly Oval on Saturday….so similar numbers to the Waratahs game.

    • Tah Tragic

      What is it with the west’s obsession with crowd numbers, free to air TV and the like. It is sooo yesterday. You need to buy into RA’s new vision of “the luxury rugby experience”. On Saturday night I was able to drive the game with parking a breeze. Once at the ground there were no queues for my meat pie and beer. At my seat I could stretch out with my bag on one seat, my pie and beer on the other and my feet on the seat in front of me. No loud opinionated fans to annoy me and I don’t think I need to mention the joy of going to the dunny without having to line up. And in a couple of years they are going to build me (and by that stage it will just be me) a brand new stadium – bloody fantastic.

    • Mica

      Lot’s of Kiwi’s I’d say.
      How do I know – couldn’t miss the boos on the telecast when a ref’s call went to the ‘Tahs

      • Tah Tragic

        I don’t know. I was there and when the kung fu action broke out the whole crowd erupted with “Red, Red, Red (card)”. It was a lot of noise for 10,000ish people.
        You couldn’t really hear it on the replay but it was pretty loud at the ground.

  • Hoss

    Well, as my wife says to me three times a year and twice on my birthday – thank christ that’s over !!

    For 722 days I had pondered this very day and i how i would feel / respond. Would it be spontaneous joy, unbridled passion, enthusiasm, an adrenalin surge, would it be like many a lazy Sunday in my youth, lying in bed with a pretty young thing, physically relaxed and enjoyng the fruits of labour just competed ??

    Nope – none of that, my overall emotion is a semi-confused, slightly pissy in that how the fuck has it taken so long – seriously – how ?

    Lets put it in context. In the same time we have had a change of President, been on the cusp of WWIII a handful of times, started a trade war, seen China act like China, had SSM legalised, had Izzy preach (i swear Iz, it was only once and i didnt swallow. Prison was a confronting time for me, slightly arousing, but mainly confusing) – so why so long to beat 15 ordinary men by another group of 15 ordinary men ??

    And there in lies the rub. That’s the real drought breaker. Belief !!!

    The Blues game was frustrating, The Crusaders game – old news, the Reds v Canes a Blueprint. The Kilt Wearers – the Tah’s just seemed free of anxiety and the baggage of doubt – maybe that was the learnings from the previous two where they should have won, that they actually CAN win.

    I saw some great rugby, but my resisidng memory from last night was smiles on faces, a group of men who just seemed free (free of doubt, free of anxiety, free of the ghosts of 722 days of sufferring) to express themselves, KNOWING they could beat a Kiwi side and then executing accordingly. Silky skills, fitness, belief and an ability to play unstructured Rugby – they beat the Landers at their own game and it was a thing of beauty.

    One win doesnt make a season, but on occasion a marker is laid down, lets hope the Tah’s (and the brave Reds on Friday) laid a marker for all Oz Rugby for the next 722 days ahead.

    For right now its 1-0 Australia and the belief-drought has been broken.

    Well done Tah’s – its time we sent a message.

    Oh and the ref had a cracker. Theres something ive never typed before.

    Now one more thing – Julius, Julius, where fore art thou Julius…………………

    • Attizar

      I believery the saying you’re looking for is ” One swallow does not a summer make ” ……
      It applies equally to the breaking drought against Kiwi teams and your prison sojourn.

      • Hoss

        Ive said before here mate – it does make a hell of a first date though.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Pure gold Hoss!

      • Parker


    • Adrian

      Great comments Hoss, and a vindication of your prediction on Friday

      • Hoss

        i love my shakespeare mate and this sums up the turning of the tide of belief.

        ‘men at sometimes are masters of their fates’.

        Self-fulfilling prophecy – you believe you can do something – you’re 100% right, if you believe you cant – your also 100% right……….

    • onlinesideline

      “would it be like many a lazy Sunday in my youth, lying in bed with a pretty young thing, physically relaxed and enjoyng the fruits of labour just competed ??” – Connecting a waratahs win with past conquests – you’re are a trueeee supporter mate – LMAO

      • Hoss

        And its ironic my Hungarian based brother.

        At 50 later this year i have amassed a ‘play book’ of successful bedroom manouvres. The counter-clockwise swirl, the AM/FM ‘Tuner’, The rodeo – to name but a few.

        But given the opportunity to use these moves id much rather settle in and watch the rugby.

        God must be a women. Who else gives a male his sexual drive peak at 18, women’s at 35 ………….WTF, she’s just taking the piss.

        • Andy

          35? There’s still hope then…

  • Keith Butler

    Good win for the Tahs. But add a bit of perspective they were against a team with 14 players for 60 mins and 13 for 10 mins as well. They may well have won the game against a full 15 but in this day and age losing players for any period can have a major bearing on the final outcome.

    • TouchFinderGeneral

      Quite! Though I s’pose the close call against the Crusaders, away, + this win, does lends some credence to the theory they aren’t completely clueless.

    • Funk

      Hang on a sec Keith…last week all we heard (not necessarily from you) was that even if the Crusaders had gone down to 14 men that doesn’t mean that the tahs would have won…now this week it’s “add a bit of perspective they were against a team with 14 players”????

      • Keith Butler

        Don’t think it was me. The Tahs were 29-0 up against the Saders. If Moody had been sent off, his try would have been disallowed. If the Tahs had lost that game playing against 14 they should rightly have had a rocket inserted somewhere painful. As it was, they still lost and part of it can be attributed to abysmal refereeing. Slightly different to this weekends game I think. A good win for the Tahs but it may not have been the blowout it turned out to be if the Landers had had 15 players for the full 80.

  • Hoss

    No mate – i am genuinely as dumb as a box of hammers.

    I would follow rugby league, but i dont have tattoos or a criminal record, so ipso facto…

    • Adrian


    • Nutta

      I know. The lack of a hyper-colour arm (to make me spin-out when pre-loading Endones before a night of vodka & redbulls), or a random 4-digit number on the back of my neck (I always like to google their postcode and then the one next suburb over and say ‘Hey I didn’t know you come from other-one!’) really makes me feel like such an impostor.

  • idiot savant

    You bloody beauty! (As the humble little Aussie bloke Wayne Grady said when he beat the worlds best to win a major golf tournament) Im gonna thank some kiwis for breaking the drought. Gibson and Cron. They have done a great job :
    – in shaking the dull complacency out of last years side
    – making a clear eyed assessment of the strengths of the cattle they have
    – building a game plan around that
    – and instilling the side with confidence to play to that plan

    Well played Tahs players but even more well played Tahs coaches.

  • John Tynan

    “…and I wasn’t game to pick them.”
    Happy to say I finally beat you in my unofficial tipping pool against you – perfect round for me!

    • Adrian

      Well done John

      I only pick matches involving Australian teams, playing other conference teams, or playing Oz conference teams.

      So far I am at 30/37, or 81% overall.

      It is the Tahs (who I support) that drag me down. I’m 7/11 for Tahs (63.6%).

      I am 100% for Rebs, and 10/11 (91%) for Reds and Brumbies

      It shows that where emotions are involved, it is harder. I am either too positive, or I over-react and tip against them. I’m still not sure about Chiefs game, which is shaping as line ball, with the Chiefs slightly favoured by bookies

      • John Tynan

        I’m hearing you. My blind spot is obviously the Reds. They’ll lose when I tip them, then when I decide to go head over heart, and tip against them, they’ll win!

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