Here we are. Round 14. Reds vs Waratahs. Mate against mate. Hate against….. Oh, wait, that’s that other code……
Super Rugby history says that the Reds have a 54% win record over the Tahs. Recent years says different with 2013 being the last time we got the win. Personally, I think that this is probably the Red’s best opportunity to turn recent outcomes around, if only for the storm clouds that seem to be following the Waratahs from day to day.
The match started with it looking like the Waratahs were going to continue their winning ways. Within two minutes Bernard Foley had his first shot at the posts when the Tahs were awarded a penalty. The miss only delayed what looked to be the inevitable as it wasn’t long before Foley made up for the miss by scrambling over the line after Adam Ashley-Cooper scooped up a miss-directed pass from Liam Wright.
A few minutes later, the Reds were refused a try when the TMO could not see that JP Smith had grounded the ball on the line. They persisted however, and after a few penalties they forced Angus Blyth over the line in the tenth minute. It seemed we were going to be in for a busy night. Next, Samu Kerevi burst through the line, offloaded to Jock Campbell, and the Red’s took the lead. We are going to miss Kerevi next year.
It was about now that it seemed to start falling apart for the Reds. After a series of dropped balls and knock ons, Kurtley Beale was awarded a try after what seemed like an age looking at replays. For the record the press box unammiously gave it Michael Wells.
The Reds then slowly edged their way up the field through some sneaky runs (crawls), a well weighted kick and shutting down a Waratah’s not so rolling maul. A successful scrum, led to a beautiful passage of play which saw the ball go through the hands of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Matt McGahan to land with Samu Naivalu who strolled across unchallenged.
As the first half progressed the Tahs seems to lose their skills somewhere. Their passes went to ground, their lineout couldn’t win a chook raffle and their scrum may as well have been trying to pack feathers into a leaf blower while it was turned on. They were lucky only to be trailing the Reds by one point at the break. This was thanks to some poor kicking by Bryce Hegarty who finished the half with zero from three.
Reds began the second half with an excellent intercept by Chris Feauai-Sautia and off-loaded to Hegarty who made sure that the try was scored under the black dot so he had a better conversion chance. The Tahs then hit straight back with some consistant work to put Alex Newsome over. It was looking like there was going to be lots and lots of points tonight.
Reds nearly hit back when Salakaia-Loto took a pass off Hunt and put Alex Mafi into a gap. Only a great tackle from Cam Clarke stopped him from grounding the ball. The Tah’s must have thought that that was it for their defence though, because from the subsequent scrum Hegarty danced through the blue shirts for his second try. This time the conversion was charged down by Nick Phipps, rather than Hegarty fluffing it.
The Waratahs then started to get their act together and began to play with patience and to their strengths. Maintaining possession eventually led to a try to Lachlan Swinton. The conversion put the Tahs in front, and the Reds started to rue the poor night Hegarty was having with the boot. Soon after Foley converted a penalty to put their lead out to four.
Then came a piece of the play of the game from Matt McGahan. (Either that or he has the bollocks of an elephant.) The Reds were attacking the line when the newbie full back spotted a maroon jersey way out on the left hand wing and put in a well placed kick to…… his hooker. Alex Mafi got his try in the end. Let’s not talk about the conversions though.
The end to end stuff continued with both teams wanting to play field position. So did the confusion, with mistakes galore and calls going every which way. Foley just kept taking the penalty kicks to keep the Tahs in front.
The Reds really lost this game all by themselves. Their poor discipline in the second half gave Foley to opportunity to put on a bunch of points unanswered. Hegarty’s poor night with the boot just exacerbated the issue. If he had managed four out of the five conversions he missed then it would have been a draw. All five and the Reds would have won. As it was the Waratahs won 32 to 40.
Aside – It was reported before the game the Tolu Latu had been arrested for mid-range DUI in the early hours of Thursday morning. It was all a bit of a mystery then as to why he has named in the side, let alone still on the bench at kick-off. In a press conference after the game Andrew Hore outlined that he was not made aware, so we can assume that this means NSWRU were not made aware, until this afternoon. They have now started a “process” to investigate the facts and felt that they could not stand him down before they had said facts to determine if he had in fact breached the code of conduct. Darryl Gibson was told at lunch time. As expected he was disappointed but is now waiting until the process is complete as to what discipline is forthcoming. Watch this space.
Match Turning Point
In my mind the turning point was when Bryce Hegarty packed his boots for the night. He really did have a poor game with kicking from the tee, and by the end of the game his from hand kicking was going the same way. Foley’s eight from nine made a difference.
With four penalties, four conversions and a try it is hard to go past Bernard Foley for MoTM. He was the difference between the Tahs winning and losing. Special mentions to Matt McGahan for a good debut and Kurtley Beale for showing why he really should always be playing fullback.
If this was a trial to see who was going to be the Wallaby fly-half, then we can safely say that Foley will fill the spot. Other than that, we will just go with usual suspects, but it will be interesting to see if Blyth and Rodda get called into the squad as they seem to do well as a lock pair.
Reds – 32
Tries: Blyth, Campbell, Naivalu, Hegarty (2), Mafi
Conv: Hegarty (1/6)
Waratahs – 40
Tries: Foley, Wells (Beale), Newsome, Swinton
Conv: Foley (4/4)
Penalties: Foley (4/5)
THERE WAS NONE!