Unfit Waratahs win everything but the game
The Waratahs dominated the Brumbies in most key statistics during their weekend Super Rugby clash, but still managed to lose the game.
Despite trailing on the scoreboard with 20 minutes to play the Brumbies were able to score a converted try and later a penalty to hold a four-point buffer until the finish.
That four point differential was critical – the Waratahs could not kick a late penalty to take the lead. Despite managing two tries to one, they were not able to convert some great field position into more.
Whenever the Waratahs managed to get close to the Brumbies line they consistently used their forward runners to hit in the very narrowest of channels. The Brumbies found this easy to repel.
The speed of recycling was as slow as it has been all year and the defence had plenty of time to reset and reload.
When the backs were given the ball Berrick Barnes managed a try but also sent two wild passes over the touchline on the full. This was fairly symptomatic of a backline that – with numerous changes – wasn’t quite clicking.
The new halves pairing of Grayson Hart and Bernard Foley looked promising and it is a shame they weren’t given more of a chance earlier in the season.
The returns of Drew Mitchell and Lachlan Turner were credible but not outstanding.
The wingers get a pass mark as a couple of speed merchants coming back from hamstring injuries.
Purely from a statistical perspective the Waratahs led:
Line breaks: 7-2
Number of runs: 123-82
Run metres: 590-396
They made less tackles (116-213), but missed less tackles (19-31) and conceded less penalties (7-13).
The Brumbies’ key statistics in front were:
Kick metres: 757-395
Turnovers conceded: 12-18
Lineouts won against throw: 1-0
It shows the value of a good kicking game; the 362 extra metres the Brumbies made off the boot were superior to the Waratahs’ 194 metres with ball in hand.
The turnovers were critical, but the main thing it shows us is that the Waratahs are still not asking enough questions of the defence.
The changes to the backline didn’t see them clinical enough with their finishing.
31 missed tackles should have seen the Brumbies pay the price but they restricted the Waratahs to two tries and showed superior fitness and game management despite being the less experienced team.
Fitness remains a huge issue. Of those 31 missed tackles, 10 offloads and 7 line breaks did not result in more tries.
This was simply because players are not fit enough, nor committed enough, to back up. The Waratahs need to find another gear in their off-season cardio work because they remain ineffective in this area.
Coach Michael Foley also needs to consider why he gave Dean Mumm a full 80 minutes. Wallaby Sitaleki Timani came on for his brother Lopeti, who had also come off the bench in a decision that left me scratching my head.
Dave Dennis can run the lineout and prior to the substitution Kane Douglas had taken three consecutive strong takes and was showing good skills in an area he is not known for.
Lopeti Timani was really starting to come into the game. His early carries of the ball were a little high and not that effective, but he was improving as the match went on and it struck me that he was subbed at the wrong time.
The on-field leadership team need to take a look at themselves. The Waratahs scrum was on top and earned a large number of penalties as well as pushing the Brumbies back numerous times. Ben Alexander was the main culprit for the Brumbies.
This made the decision to go for lineouts in the attacking zone rather strange.
Tatafu Polota-Nau is known as a weak thrower and the scrum was massively on top, driving the Brumbies back and earning penalties.
Why not go the scrum option? Surely it’d be logical to feed it in and see if you can get a push over? If not, they could release the ball to the backs with a bit of space.
Why risk the throw not going in straight and why allow the defensive forwards not to commit the whole eight men?
Why allow the defence to bolster the defensive line? It showed a lack of understanding of the match situation.
Putting a good drive on to keep the backrow attached should have enabled them to get in some one-on-one situations and hopefully some more tries.
This team should have performed so much better than it has this season.
I thought the Waratahs would win this match but I have to say all credit goes to the Brumbies, who have obviously worked harder on their fitness levels off the pitch.
They have used both that and their confidence in each other to manufacture a win, despite being outpointed in many key areas.
If Michael Foley is staying on next season, he must make the changes necessary on the training pitch to change the results we are getting on the pitch.
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