Oh no! Waratahs kick the Reds out of jail

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    The Waratahs lost to a last minute try scored by Dom Shipperley (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    You live by the kick and you die by the kick. That is the story of the Waratahs’ astonishing and unnecessary loss to the Reds at the ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

    This is the situation. The Waratahs, leading 21 – 18, have the ball in the Reds half with about a minute of time remaining. The reserve halfback, Brendan McKibbin, gets a call from his winger to chip-kick through to a huge space down his side of the field.

    Let’s stop the tape here. The Waratahs only have to hold on to the ball to win the match. Even if they score from a kick-and-chase play, they don’t get a fourth-try bonus point as, up until now, only two tries, both of them by the Waratahs, have been scored in the match.

    The obvious play, the only smart play, is for the halfback to bring a forward in on a short run and force another ruck. Or take the ball up himself and force a ruck. And keep on forcing rucks until the siren sounds and the ball can be booted into touch.

    Asked after the match, Michael Foley said about the chip kick: ‘The benefit of hindsight is a great thing but if we’d had our time again we’d probably do something different.’

    Probably? Now roll the tape. The Reds scramble a defensive ruck forced by the chip kick and Ben Taupuai breaks away from inside his own 22 to about the 10m mark in Reds territory. The ball is moved through a couple of Reds player to Dom Shipperley on the far wing. Look now at the Waratahs defenders. They are standing passively watching this passing.

    Rob Horne carefully positions himself some metres in from the touch presumably to leave the trap of an outside gap and the touchline for Shipperley to try and take.

    Instead, Shipperley bursts inside Horne, who makes a lazy and ineffectual attempt at a tackle. And then the flying Reds winger streaks away down the unguarded touchline. It takes the Waratahs several moments to realise that there is no cover. In Rex Mossop’s famous phrase, “Shut the door, the horse has bolted.”

    Tom Carter, a ponderous runner, tries to come across on the angle to make a saving tackle. But the effort is like a draught horse chasing a thoroughbred.

    Now wind back the tape to an event marking the launching of the Super Rugby season. Foley is defending the kicking tactics he wants the Waratahs to employ. The tactics are not negative, he insists. The kicking will be to put pressure on the opposition and force a turnover. In this sense, the kicking is a positive form of play.

    The Bible says, ‘as ye sow, so shall ye reap.’ Readers of The Roar will know that I have railed against the chip kick for years. It is a cop-out play that denotes a lack of rugby intelligence and skill. The play invariably gives the ball back to the opposing side.

    It is a high-risk play that should only be used in the direst of circumstances. Even then, it probably shouldn’t.

    So McKibbin will not be blamed for this play. It is an integral part of the Waratahs’ match strategy and tactics.

    The blame, and it is a heavy blame, goes first and foremost to Foley. The chip kick play has been the bane of the Waratahs for years. Coming in as the new head coach, he should have issued instructions to the players that the play must never be used. He clearly did not do this. He actually reinforced the importance of the chip kick in the Waratah game plan for 2012.

    Well, a match that should have been won and won easily against the old foe and reigning Super Rugby champions was lost. This loss could have a big bearing on whether the Reds or the Waratahs win the all-important Australian conference and with it at least one home game in the finals.

    Both sides, though, showed enough to suggest that they should be finals contenders.

    Despite a lot of over-refereeing, the opening rounds of Super Rugby 2012 provided some excellent games. All except the Stormers-Hurricanes match were still in play until the final whistle. Only the Brumbies-Force match was poor quality.

    The Crusaders and the Blues are the bookies’ favourites to win the Super Rugby title, and both teams played very well in their match at Auckland to start the season. In the end, a slightly porky Piri Weepu missed a field goal attempt from close range, with the irresistible Irael Dagg getting his fingertips to the ball to divert its trajectory.

    My main concern in the Brumbies-Force match was the poor play of both backlines. Even their alignment was all wrong. Rod Kafer, for instance, pointed out how deep Matt Toomua stood. It is impossible to get a backline running from this quarter-back position. Why is the Brumbies back coach Stephen Larkham, a great exponent of the flat backline, allowing this?

    As for the Western Force, the time has come for David Pocock to re-think his game. He is touted here in Australia as the best openside flanker in the world. To me, this is nonsense.

    He seems to have built himself up as Phil Waugh did into a muscle-bound slowcoach. He pilfers the occasional ball. But he has no impact with his running game, he does nothing in the lineouts, and he rarely makes telling covering tackles.

    One other observation about this game is that both these sides seemed to play as if by numbers. Hopefully with the first match out of the way they will relax a bit and be more enterprising in their play.

    Neither the Chiefs nor the Highlanders looked to be in the same class as the Crusaders and Blues. The bookies have them as eighth and ninth placed sides. The Chiefs, like the Hurricanes, do not seem to have solid set pieces in the scrums and lineouts. The backs in both sides are very good but games are won (or should be won in the case of the Waratahs) by teams with dominant packs.

    All the South African sides had their moments. In some respects, though, the Sharks were lucky against the Hurricanes in that a video refereeing decision not to award the Hurricanes a try was the turning point of the match. A converted try, which was scored right by the posts, would have given the Hurricanes an unlikely lead of 30 – 29 with minutes left to play.

    In my opinion, a try was clearly scored and I can’t see why it was not awarded. SANZAR has said that it will explain and discuss refereeing decisions. I would like to read a detailed review of why the video referee adjudicated the way he did, and more importantly whether the SANZAR authorities agree with the explanation.

    The bookies have the Lions, Brumbies, Cheetahs and Western Force as their last four teams in that declining order. Some teams have to be on the bottom of the table. But in the case of the Cheetahs and the Lions, both looked stronger than the Brumbies and Western Force.

    It is always exciting to see a youngster burst on to the scene already capable of turning matches in the favour of his side. So look out for Johan Goosen, the number 10 for the Cheetahs. This kid drop-kicked a goal from halfway, kicked a penalty from 10 metres inside his own half, took high balls on the burst and sizzled through gaps…

    Even though he was on a losing team (with the Lions getting up by kicking nine penalties!), he was the player of the round as far as I am concerned.

    Gallery images supplied by NSW Waratahs.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (133)

    • February 27th 2012 @ 7:45am
      Patonga said | February 27th 2012 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Yes why did they kick the ball… Berrick Barnes was not on the field,, did they look into the stands
      and think what would Berrick do on this situation….

      • February 27th 2012 @ 8:25am
        Justin said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        Barnes would have kicked, thats what he does 😉

        • Roar Guru

          February 27th 2012 @ 9:10am
          Bay35Pablo said | February 27th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Barnes would have kicked it into touch, got a lineout and pinned them in their half with a set defensive line. Big difference.

          • February 27th 2012 @ 9:13am
            Justin said | February 27th 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

            Bay, considering 3 tahs had Shipperley surrounded I think your point is moot!

            • February 27th 2012 @ 5:15pm
              soapit said | February 27th 2012 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

              not at all. you get a break with the ball in touch to get organised. the reason the breaks by tapuai and shipperly happened wasnt because there were no defenders, it was because they werent organised.

              if he holds on to the ball and stops trying to play rugby theres always a chance he could be penalised so kicking long into touch was the way to go. even landing it in the in goal would have been alright.

              interesting how the commentators didnt mention it was horne that got stepped after talking up his defence all game.

    • February 27th 2012 @ 7:58am
      p.Tah said | February 27th 2012 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      I don’t blame Foley for the kick at the end. Backs, particulariliy fast outside backs always call for the ball to be thrown to them or kicked ahead for them to chase. Its instinct. On Saturday night may anger was levelled at McKibbin. It was a stupid move to kick, but he wasn’t the sole culprit.

      Foley said: ‘The benefit of hindsight is a great thing but if we’d had our time again we’d probably do something different.’ he would have been furious, but that’s the mark of a good coach, he didn’t humiliate the player in public. I’m sure he’ll have a quiet word with the backs in private

      I predict that this moment as painful as it is will be looked upon as the moment that galvansed the team on their march to the finals. As long as it doesn’t stiffle any creative play they may have (don’t laugh), it will ensure they treasure the pill more and focus for a full game.

      To some this glass maybe empty but I can still see water in it and its half full.

      • February 27th 2012 @ 10:13am
        Denby said | February 27th 2012 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        I admire you attitude but judging by your post I can only assume have only been watching the Tah’s for the past week and are completely new to rugby.

        Every f*&$#ing year the Tahs invent new and ever more creative ways to lose games they should win. McKibbin has certainly raised the bar (maybe he should be captain?) but this is a tradition that has gone on since the dawn of time.

        • February 27th 2012 @ 11:55am
          Albo said | February 27th 2012 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          Judgmental much? I would assume that p.Tah is someone who enjoys watching his rugby, knows the Tahs history just as well, if not more than you and would prefer to actually judge a new season on its entirety… not one game.

          The mistakes may ring of familiarity but anyone who judges a team on their first game is a little overactive to say the least. In 2011 The Reds beat the Force by one point in Round 1 and then lost to the Tahs 30-6 the week after. Some might have said that this was looking like the crumbling Reds team of old.

          Tahs fans could use pTahs glass of water for a change.

        • Roar Guru

          February 27th 2012 @ 1:31pm
          The Bush said | February 27th 2012 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          Considering he’s been posting on here for several years, I’d be shocked if it was the first time he’d watched Rugby…

          • February 27th 2012 @ 1:44pm
            p.Tah said | February 27th 2012 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            It would explain my random analysis of the game on previous postings 🙂

            Denby – I was late to the game but I’ve been following the Tahs for about 20 years. The Tahs frustrate me beyond tears at times, but they’re my team. I’ll stick with them through thick and thin. I am probably overly positive, but you have to be. I follow sport because it’s a release. I enjoy the build-up to the game, the banter on forums such as this or with my mates or reading about it in the papers.
            I enjoy going to the game, having a beer with some mates and being overly critical of the players with my hindsight vision of the game. I like the team to win, but in the end it doesn’t matter. I’m there for the experience. It doesn’t start or end with the whistle. It’s the season on and off the field. The more of a roller coaster it is, the more the enjoyable the season is. Having hope that they will turn the corner this season… or the next… or the next… is all part of the fun.

            • February 27th 2012 @ 7:23pm
              Yikes said | February 27th 2012 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

              You, Sir, are a champion.

          • February 27th 2012 @ 11:42pm
            charles said | February 27th 2012 @ 11:42pm | ! Report


    • February 27th 2012 @ 8:22am
      Albo said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Aside from his one defensive lapse for the game I think that Rob Horne will have is best year should he remain fit. He’s tough, fast and plays hard rugby. He seems like he really wants to prove himself this year and that’s a good thing for NSW.

      For a team with an injury list as big as the Tahs I’m proud of what they achieved. It was NEVER going to be a free flowing game for 80 mins. It was the scrappy and niggly game we would expect (last years opener discounted for reasons that it doesn’t support my argument).

      I have to say that I really feel for TPN. Not because it may have ‘turned’ the match.. such a statement is impossible to make considering the time of the game it happened, but because it was one of the greatest tries by a hooker I have seen! The pace! The placement over the head! Such a shame for such a good player. Glad he made it through without breaking his leg (as far as we know… the bloke played with a slipped disc and bone splint for a year).

      Roll on 2012. Good luck Tahs and Reds. Redemption in Suncorp!

      • February 27th 2012 @ 3:51pm
        ted said | February 27th 2012 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

        Pretty big defensive lapse….

        • February 27th 2012 @ 4:00pm
          Albo said | February 27th 2012 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

          True… Although Matt Dunning’s drop goal was pretty big too and I can’t seeing him doing it again anytime soon 🙂

          • February 27th 2012 @ 11:46pm
            charles said | February 27th 2012 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

            Certainly not now he’s retired. But that was a magic drop goal!

    • February 27th 2012 @ 8:28am
      Justin said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Young kid makes a mistake and is pillared yet two Wallabies are up against a rookie and they let him through untouched and no one says boo.

      Shipperley should have been smashed in a gang tackle. There was no desperation shown by the Tah defence in that last 30 seconds.

      • Roar Guru

        February 27th 2012 @ 8:41am
        stillmissit said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        Agreed Justin, the defence from both sides was good all game and then that. Mind you the boy can run.

        • February 27th 2012 @ 9:14am
          Justin said | February 27th 2012 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          Yes he can run for sure. I noticed in some of his short appearances last year he has some talent. And for a young guy to back himself in that situation was just brilliant…

      • February 27th 2012 @ 8:58am
        johnny-boy said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Yep – Horne looked more like a chinese soldier statue, than a doll. The Pope’s little shimmy was simple but wickedly effective. He should get great confidence from that. He was a bit of a dork last year so fingers crossed he grows. I could not believe how generous the Tahs were being during the game coughing up penalty after penalty. McGibbin just kicked when it was called apparently. I think the chip kick can be enormously valuable in breaking up tight defences, if used very sparingly. I seem to recall the All Blacks used it to good effect against the Wallabies last year. The Reds badly need to get a new scrum coach. Perhaps the other Argentinian the ARU wont touch should be given a go. A good opportunity for him to show his ability, a good opportunity for Alec Evans to retire (hint hint) and an opportunity for the Reds scrum to not be constantly embarassed. I just don’t think Daley or Slipper are up to it. Tapaui clearly looks the second best second five in Australia, behind JOC. The Reds will eventually get rolled if they win a few more games. They looked a bit cocky last night like they just had to turn up. I was amazed TPN didnt pull a hammy on that run. There’s a knowledge gap at the Tahs medical staff that will haunt them later this year.

        • February 27th 2012 @ 3:10pm
          formeropenside said | February 27th 2012 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

          Alec Evans is now retired I understand.

      • February 27th 2012 @ 3:52pm
        ted said | February 27th 2012 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        Spot on

    • Roar Guru

      February 27th 2012 @ 8:40am
      stillmissit said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      I was encouraged by the Waratahs effort for the first time in years. They worked their back line with ball in hand, the kicking when it happened was not brainless. The forwards were good if not dominant and it looked like a balanced team. The brain snap at the end was a hair tearer but on reflection I am happy to tell rugby mates I am a Waratahs supporter without looking down at the ground.

      • Roar Guru

        February 27th 2012 @ 9:11am
        Bay35Pablo said | February 27th 2012 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        Horne looked good with a bit of space in the 2nd half …

        • February 27th 2012 @ 10:03am
          formeropenside said | February 27th 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          All I saw Horne do all match was push Shipperley in the head in the Reds in goal, and get crunched by Ioane.

          Was it Horne or Carter than Faingaa ran over for his break? Maybe that too.

          • February 27th 2012 @ 10:34am
            jameswm said | February 27th 2012 @ 10:34am | ! Report

            It was Carter fos

            • February 27th 2012 @ 3:11pm
              Atawhai Drive said | February 27th 2012 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

              The same Carter who began a patronising and premature celebration of victory just before the Reds got their last-gasp try.

              The same Carter who urged the pointless kick that led directly to the try that cost the Waratahs a certain victory.

              The same stodgy, unimaginative Carter who brings nothing to the midfield that I can see.

              The same Carter who looks to me like an over-promoted club player, out of his depth at representative level.

              • Roar Guru

                February 27th 2012 @ 5:22pm
                The Bush said | February 27th 2012 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                Yeah, that Carter…

              • February 28th 2012 @ 3:13pm
                Sage said | February 28th 2012 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

                Agreed Atawhai. What a muppet pushing Digby in the head and gloating about the Reds losing to then be showed up so spectacularly.

        • February 27th 2012 @ 10:06am
          Red Kev said | February 27th 2012 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          I thought Morahan made Horne look suspect on defending his outside shoulder, he made several half-breaks in that channel stepping outside him.

    • Roar Guru

      February 27th 2012 @ 8:51am
      Rusty said | February 27th 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Just for ref – it was the Stormers vs Hurricanes. The Sharks played the Bulls.

      As for the try I agree it was pretty close run thing and probably should have gone the way of the Canes. I would have also given the Pieterson one at the end as it looked like he got it onto the wash before being turned.

      Ah well whats a first round without some drama. Favourite moment for me was the Highlanders getting up to beat the Chiefs are being pretty far behind the 8 ball at one point

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