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.
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
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
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.
The G&GR MOTM
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?
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
Hurricanes – B. Barrett 17′ – (deliberate knock down).
Hurricanes – B. Barrett 77′ – (deliberate knock down).