Waratahs tease fans again - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Waratahs tease fans again

Waratahs tease fans again

The Match

I admit it.  I started to write my match report at half-time.  Here is how I planned to open:

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any way now
I shall be released

… sang glum Tahs fans.

But, bugger me, the Tahs came back.  Well, that’s true but my in-match notes show that at the 48 minute mark I wrote:

Canes taking a smoko

I didn’t realise then that they had actually pretty much knocked off for the night.  Maybe that’s a bit harsh but it’s hard for a team that has run up a five tries to one lead at half time to keep the pace of the match up.

First half

Referee Marius Van der Westhuizen blew his whistle to start the match and bang, bang went the Canes with the super impressive Ngani Laumape scoring down the Waratahs right wing following a great scramble by Tahs number 8 Michael Wells to clean up a probing Jordie Barrett kick.

Ngani Laumape celebrates second try – also scored in 88th second

So the Tahs had conceded an early try and looked well off the pace. The portents weren’t good, as they say in the classics.

By the time fans had managed to come back with a Steinlager or two the Canes had punished the Tahs two more times taking the score to 21-0 after 12 minutes with tries by the two Barrett brothers, the second of which particularly exposed woeful defensive positioning by the Tahs’ outside backs.

As someone who had predicted that the Tahs would get within 15 points of the Hurricanes I was now starting to blush.  Could this be another one of those Tahs meltdowns?

Tough second-rower and try-scorer Mark Abbott on the run for the Hurricanes

My blushes were somewhat eased when young Ned Hanigan latched onto a Hail Mary offload from Sekope Kepu to score fairly adjacent to the sticks at the 17 minute mark.  This minor miracle had arisen following a, in my view, cynical penalty incurred by Beauden Barrett slapping down a pass at the base of a ruck to score a yellow card.  Probably offside as well. Foley converted and the score went to an almost respectable 21-7.

By the time Beauden Barret returned in the 27th minute we realised that the Tahs not taken further advantage of the numerical superiority they possessed and in fact had just spent a minute or two trying to clear their line.  A penalty against Sekope Kepu for a soft, daft no arms tackle allowed the Canes to eventually force a five metre scrum fairly adjacent to the posts.

The Canes proceeded to demolish the Tahs scrum and they moved the ball to the Tahs right hand side defence where a simple cutout pass embarrassed the Tahs’ defenders and lively winger Wes Goosen ran the ball in for a five pointer. Unconverted. Score 26-7, 31 minutes gone.

Wes Goosen – scored fourth try in first half for the Hurricanes

The Tahs managed to get a bit more effective leading into halftime, but a superb break by stand-in number 8 Reed Prinsep saw the Canes loosie come oh-so-close to scoring in the corner with only a last ditch covering tackle by Tahs’ centre David Horwitz preventing the touchdown.

Tahs fans spirits soared at this show of determination but those spirits quickly sank again as a fumble at the resulting lineout resulted by Canes lock Michael Abbott touching down.

I grumbled something about how Abbott deserved it  as a reward for all his unseen work this year but I lamented how the Tahs again failed to control the ball.  The try was converted by Jordie Barrett and the score went to 33-7.  English bookmakers were probably already paying out on the result as the half time whistle blew soon after.

Half-time score: – Hurricanes 33 – Waratahs 7

Waratahs’ coaches – have a lot to answer for after a poor first half performance by the Tahs

Second half

The halftime oranges must have been good for the Waratahs as they came out with renewed purpose and in the second minute of the second half scored a very nice try with some short passing between Bernard Foley, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Jake Gordon and Bryce Hegarty. Personally I was a little dubious on one of the passes but the officials were happy and the score went to 33-14 as Foley converted.

This was quickly followed by a Jake Gordon special – a sniping try following a lineout win at the back.  Foley’s conversion took the core to 33-21 and any English bookies who had paid out early were starting to feel nervous.

It was at this moment that I wrote the previously mentioned “smoko” remark but the Tahs have actually performed reasonably well in the second half of their matches this year – could they mount another comeback again?

Skipper Michael Hooper – led his team well on the comeback

The Tahs were a changed side in the second half with rates of effort much higher than in the first but they couldn’t quite find a way to hold the ball for long enough to build real pressure.  In the 54th minute, Beauden Barrett jinked and stepped and put on the gas with a great long run that resulted in Ngani Laumape crossing for his seventh try of the season and his second of the night.  38-21.

Both coaches rang in the changes and the tempo lifted but so did the error rate and the score didn’t change until the 72nd minute when Andrew Kellaway capitalised on a simple backline move following one of the few steady scrums won by the Tahs all night, to score a try; duly converted.  38-28.

And that’s the way the score remained.  The Tahs couldn’t crack the Canes again although Irae Simone came very close at the death only to be held up by Otere Black in a great try-saver.

Jake Gordon – one of best for Waratahs

Loose ends

Apparently Israel Folau has been unwell and he certainly seemed listless but he was well marked by the Canes.  Michael Hooper was his usual busy self and made the most ground for the Tahs – a total of 14 runs for 102 metres but he was closely followed by Bryce Hegarty with 100 metres from eight runs.

On the other hand, Beauden Barrett ran for 149 metres in his twelve runs.  He’s a hard man to stop.

Yet again, security of possession on our own feed at set piece was a worry.  Same as it ever was.

Ngani Laumape – scoring his second try which made it a bridge too far for the Tahs

The Game Changer

The game changer? Well, the match was effectively over at half time despite the comeback by the Tahs. Game-changer? The kick-off. It had been a draw up until then. Gallant fightbacks? I’d rather lead all the way.


I’ve agonised over this but I’m going to plump for Bernard Foley who was composed enough in the second half to guide the Tahs within distance. I have to choose a Tah, right?

Wallaby Watch

Oh dear. Heaven help us.

OK – Foley has proved his fitness and was influential. Scrum half Gordon will probably get an invite to the Wallaby camp. Hegarty, won’t but he played well at 15 – his natural position.

Score & Scorers

Hurricanes – 38

Tries: N. Laumape (1′, 53′), B. Barrett (6′), J, Barrett (11′), W. Goosen (30′), M. Abbott (35).

Conversions: J. Barrett (2′, 7′, 12′, 37′).

Waratahs – 28

Tries: N. Hanigan (17′), B. Hegarty (41′), J. Gordon (46′), A. Kellaway (70′)’

Conversions: B. Foley (18′, 43′, 47”, 71′).

Cards & Citings

Yellow Card
Hurricanes – B. Barrett 17′ – (deliberate knock down).
Red Card
Hurricanes – B. Barrett 77′ – (deliberate knock down).




  • Tommy Brady

    Well written – thank you. On one hand Waratahs fans are entitled to breathe a little easier after that. A final 10 point defeat is respectable. A 2nd half winning margin of 21-5 a positive base to work off entering a week off. What though must be front and centre of any post-match review has to be the 21-0 deficit after 12 minutes and the 33-7 score line to conclude the 1st half. More exact would be the dreadful display of aimless kicking away of possession and the appalling defensive systems once the ball had been gifted to a talented broken field side. Are lessons not being learned?

    A lot of credit belongs to Bernard Foley who orchestrated much of the 2nd half attack. Praise too is deserving of Jake Gordon who presents an attacking threat from halfback that Nick Phipps simply does not. Aside though from a badly outplayed scrum, the complete inability of Israel Folau to feature in this game must be a concern. It is an all too familiar theme this season.

    The final comment though has to be directed to the Hurricanes. Sure you rested some key starters, and yes the game was effectively over after 40 minutes – but to defend your title this year accuracy and intensity will need to lift substantially. Your 2nd half effort tonight was dreadful. It is after all an 80 minute game.

    • Lee Grant

      Good comments TB – as you indicate: being 0-21 down at 12 minutes was the crux of the game.

      For one reason of another the Tahs didn’t have defenders in place in time to make a difference – and one of the keys for the Hurricanes was being able to move the ball accurately to the soft spots early – though sometimes just running to them was enough.

      Fortunately for the Tahs, the Canes had a few handling issues of their own, otherwise the score would have been uglier still.

      For the second week in a row, in the first half, the Tahs’ defensive line had dog-legs – and wide defenders e.g. Folau, were coming in when not needed. The defensive decision-making of NSW was generally poor.

      It is well that the Tahs have a bye next week because too many players are tired physically or mentally, or both. Hooper needs the week off and Kepu is finding it hard to get out of a trot. Folau was supposed to be crook before the game and he sure played like it.

      There were a few bright spots for the Tahs – their bench had a better effect than that of the home team. No 8 Wells is developing well which makes the apparent loss of form of Holloway less harmful, and scrummie Gordon is keeping his rise going.

      PS Tom B – there is a message for you in the forum.

      • Parker

        Why did they select a sick man?

  • Huw Tindall

    Nice write up2Blues. It’s a sad state of affairs when I’m almost happy with the result from a Tahs fan point of view.

    Could have been a real nail biter in the second half if some of the near tries went the Tahs way:
    – Phipps close call on the line with the TMO,
    – Barrett red card but no penalty try when the receiver had nobody in front of him 2 metres out
    – Irae Simone held up at the very end

    The Tahs had themselves to blame. Dumb tactics in the first half and failed to capitalise on some key plays with at least 2 attacking scrums 5 metres out going to tight heads!

    Personally I think the Canes are a bit overrated compared to the Crusaders and even Chiefs. Their structured play isn’t good enough. If you play a smart disciplined game and restrict their counter attacking opportunities then they don’t have a lot of answers. Just see that second half. Tahs kept ball in hand. Lots of pick and go around the ruck to draw in defenders, plenty of line breaks and space. If they put that on in the first half it could have been a very different story. Fact the Tahs put 4 tries on the Canes when they have conceded on 9 tries so far this season says a lot.

    Still, Hurricanes deserved winners so congrats to them.

  • onlinesideline

    Oh BTW – thanks ARU for f…king the season – you couldnt have timed your Super Rugby
    “deliberations” any better – right in the first 5 weeks of the comp – thanks again !

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well happy to get the win and the way the Tahs came back justified my pre match apprehension. Not sure what happened to the Canes in the middle but a lot of it was due to some very good pressure by the Tahs and some great play from Gordon and Foley – got to be the best combination in Australia now and hope to see them both in the Wallabies.
    One thing I will say is that I think whoever runs the defensive plays needs to go. In the last 2 years the defence has got worse and this absolute stupid policy of having players in different positions in attack and defence is proving completely unworkable. It’s no wonder Folau hasn’t improved and tries are leaking through like water in a sieve.
    I was pleased to see the canes switch it on when they needed but a lot of work to do if they want to retain the title this year

    • Tommy Brady

      It would be intriguing listening to Michael Cheika and others in Australian rugby who adhere to this lineout defensive system of shifting inside backs close to the sideline and stacking your back line with tight and loose forwards. Yes, conceptually big forwards can better tackle big forwards running those 1 & 2 channels but they also lack line speed, formation and the ability to handle clever shifts in the points of attack. It also means your key ball makers are out of position in times of unexpected events such as really quick recycled ball and/or turnovers.

      Most importantly the good opposition sides have identified it and are exploiting it whilst guys are busy trying to move to their designated position on defense. It is a flawed defensive system that has become outdated. Tries scored this year against sides trying to implement it prove it.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Just watched the game again this morning. Last night was a bit sporadic with dinner and guests. A couple of points on the Tahs.
        Hooper is playing his heart out but being let down with a lack of support.
        The selection of Naiyaravoro seemed desperate at the time and was proven to be so. What a complete let down.
        I don’t think you’ll miss Skelton that much. Played ok but certainly nothing special.
        Foley was awesome but he needs to continue to work on his tactical kicking
        I think the Tahs are struggling to know exactly what game they want to play. They have some great players if they want to be a bit expansive but seem almost hesitant to do that.

        • phil peake

          I thought Hanigan showed a lot of passion and determination again and is very promising.
          I agree the selection of Taqele went ignored by most “experts” in Aust rugby and he proved again how bad he is. We need smart backs not big backs.

  • Pedro

    I can’t believe the tahs went for the try instead of the sticks. Lost a bonus point right there.

  • ForceFan

    We all know about Hooper’s incredible motor. He makes the energiser bunny look like a lazy sod. But right now he’s looking bone tired and in need of a rest. The bye will certainly help, but he needs some serious game-time management.

    That’s the most subdued effort at the breakdown that I’ve seen from Michael Hooper. Like most of the Waratah’s he was standing off Canes’ rucks. The only Canes’ ball that he put any pressure on was when he was the tackler.
    He finished up with 17 Ruck Involvements – 11 Attack/6 Defence.
    (This follows up the 18T – 12A/6D against the Crusaders)

    His SR2017 average (for 80 mins) after Rnd 7 is – 23T – 17A/6D
    His SR2016 average (for 80 mins) was – 27T – 19A/8D.

    Skelton came off at 55 minutes with 18T – 12A/6D.
    At that stage Hooper had 10T – 5A/5D.

    How much better the Tahs looked when they stopped kicking back possession at every opportunity.

  • Kokonutcreme

    Cliched game of two halves. Canes played some of their best and worst rugby this season in this match, the Tahs carried over some of the good things in the second half they did last week against the Crusaders.

    It’s either Foley or bust for the Tahs, he needs to play every game which is in itself an issue, much the same as it is for Hooper and Latu. Jake Gordon’s standing in the team and the Australian game is growing in stature every week, Hanigan and Wells continue to impress and wasn’t Hegarty a surprise packet at fullback.

    However individual efforts from those deserving of praise can’t be sustained nor will it be enough for the Tahs to run deep in this competition.

    Nathan Grey’s defensive screens are either not being understood by the players or are being effectively exploited by the opposition, either way another high missed tackle count for the second consecutive week hurts the Tahs more than missed scoring opportunities and slow starts.

    I’m going to stick my neck out and say the Tahs did not play to coaches instructions in the first half – if that is true, what is going on in the players heads? Last week Gibson revealed that he instructed his players at halftime to stop kicking the ball back to the Crusaders and then shortly after the resumption a loose kick resulted in a try to Bateman. On Friday night we saw inaccurate kicking plus a disjointed kick chase present the Hurricanes with too much space and opportunities to counter attack.

    After halftime the Tahs reduced their kicking, retained possession and built phases to gain confidence with the ball in hand and apply pressure to the Canes. Once they started to create line breaks and score tries, you could see their belief growing.

    Post match the Canes are treating this victory as a loss and aren’t happy with their second half performance, their physical intensity around the ball buttoned off and they missed more first up tackles. When they had possession they uncharacteristically kicked it away, gifting it back to the Tahs. It’s almost as if they decided the high percentage play was to be more conservative which is not the Canes style. They scored five first half tries and missed several others, they should have thrown caution to the experts and continued to back themselves and play the best way they know how – attack, attack, attack.

    I’ll take any win against the Tahs as they’ve had the wood on us the past few years, but the frustration at missing out on a golden opportunity to put a quality side to the sword and earning another bonus point victory leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

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