Waratahs riding the Debacle bus
Our evening started at 5:30pm with a few delicious European beers, 500mls each, at Canberra’s rugby-centric bar known as Debacle. It was a fitting way to begin our night, which ended with the Brumbies-Waratahs game in Syndey.
Right on time, the so-called Debacle Bus turned up. It was immediately and entirely flooded with Brumbies fans.
I managed to jag a seat, appropriately next to the only other Waratahs fan, a very brave young man in a Tahs jersey.
As we set off, I noticed that six packs of beer were being handed back, overhead, through the crowded bus.
Oh yea! Beer for all just to keep the fun going. Brilliant.
I surmised that such a great idea must have been born during the darkest days and poor crowds of the Brumbies’ previous seasons.
Now, it is returning to being a celebration of an exciting and cohesive young and fearless rugby team.
As I bonded immediately with my new best friend and co-Waratahs fan Richard, he turned out to be a relative of my son’s current rugby coach. What a small world!
When I commented on his apparent bravery, he said that this crowd was tame compared to the reception he gets when he wears it to Reds versus Tahs games in Brisbane. Touché.
Canberra Stadium, the flood lit oasis surrounded by the darkness of the Australian bush, is a great place to watch rugby.
Our seats were surrounded the Brumbies’ male choir.
While these gentlemen can sing, and add to the atmosphere of the evening, they also know their rugby.
They were aided by regular reports from one of their colleagues who scanned the airwaves for statistics and juicy tidbits.
In the 41st minute, after trading penalties, Speight got the ball with nothing on but only 15 metres from the try line.
He went to the one metre of outside space and defied the laws of physics, dancing down the wing without stepping into touch.
Still hemmed in, he then stepped off his right foot, dissecting two Waratahs defenders to score the first try just before half time.
While it was this individual brilliance that turned the game, the Brumbies had looked sharper and more likely to score tries throughout the first half.
There was a precision and purpose to their play when they had the ball, which the Tahs could not achieve.
While the Brumbies defence was watertight, it helped that the Tahs backline attack was insipid, ponderous and quickly became unstructured.
Tom Kingston made seven runs, statistically. In reality, he was receiving the ball flatfooted and/or stationary.
He resorted to a dance-like jigging around, the like of which is commonly seen in the very lowest divisions of Tuesday evening mixed touch footy.
It doesn’t work on Tuesday evenings and it didn’t work last night against the likes of school mate McCabe, Smith or Hooper.
The Tahs had 70-percent possession in the first half, but went to oranges 13-6 down.
Tatafu Polota-Nau’s departure 32 minutes in derailed both the scrum and line out.
Polota-Nau’s bravery is renowned but his kamikaze-inspired tackle that first injured him was immature, selfish and simply dumb.
Don’t go for the big tackles unless you have done the hard work of getting into position to make the hit.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, despite many injuries, is still yet to learn this lesson. John Ulugia is also yet to learn how to throw into the line out.
The second half was more of the same. The Brumbies were dominating the breakdown and overall conceded 14 turnovers to the Tahs.
In the end the Tahs dominated all stats except turnovers and the scoreboard.
Even when the Brumbies were reduced to 14 men for the remaining six minutes, the Tahs could not remotely mount a competent try-scoring passage of play.
Dennis, Palu, Kepu, Betham and Barnes all tried hard for the Tahs.
Adam Ashley-Cooper was uninspired, invisible and is a shadow of the player of years past.
Barnes seemed very frustrated as the match wore on and his decision making suffered accordingly.
Lealiifano was inventive and the fulcrum of the attack. His serious injury in the last play of the game is a big problem.
With Toomua already out for the season and Shute Shield’s fly-half ranks already plundered, I am guessing it will be either Nic White, Robbie Coleman or Cam Crawford who steps into the number 10 jersey.
The glaring difference between the teams was the speed of thought. The Brumbies were that crucial half-second faster in thought and deed than the Tahs.
It reminded me of a boxing mismatch, where one fighter is progressively picked apart by the faster opponent and made to look sluggish, tired and eventually tragic.
The 2012 Brumbies are uncluttered in thought and inherently confident, such that their well-trained instinct can function and flourish.
For the Waratahs, 2012 is over. More importantly, the 2012 result is the same as the past 17 years of under-performance.
We returned to the jocularity of the buoyant Debacle Bus passengers. The Brumbies had delivered an exciting game and result, with some help from the Tahs.
Over a few more imported beers, we began planning the next Canberra trip for the Brumbies’ impending home qualifying final and another Debacle Bus ride.