It’s high time the Waratahs got serious

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Tom Carter in action for the NSW Waratahs. AAP Image/David Crosling

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    Daniel Halangahue bombed a sitter conversion in Dunedin last night for the Highlanders to win 18-17. The captain’s casual approach proved very costly, but that’s how the Waratahs play their rugby.

    They casually wander offside, casually knock-on or forward pass, casually miss-touch, or casually miss their lineout jumpers.

    Their one constant saving grace – a solid defensive pattern.

    Yet the men-in-blue boast a Wallaby-filled squad. Go figure.

    Having said that, how on earth did the Waratahs get so close when it took them 34 minutes to move inside the Highlander quarter for the first time, and 44 minutes for the second time with the Pat McCutcheon charge-down try. Sadly, the flanker badly dislocated his ankle scoring, and will be out of action for sometime.

    In the wash-up NSW had only 38% possession, and 41% territory.

    Played under the Forsyth Barr Stadium closed roof making perfect conditions, this clash was previewed as the best of the Super Rugby third round.

    And for sheer intensity played at a cracking pace, the rating was spot on. By the 80th minute both sides were knackered.

    But on all the stats, the Highlanders should have won by the length of the straight. Yet they would have lost had it not been for Halangahue’s howler.

    A strange game leaving the Highlanders unbeaten after three and the Waratahs with one win, and two close losses to pick up bonus points for losing by less than 7.

    There were two other Australian conference games last night. The Brumbies won 24-23 over the Cheetahs in Canberra with an 80th-minute penalty from Christian Lealiifano, and the Reds an 11-6 winner over a much-improved Rebels at Suncorp.

    The contrasting crowds told the interest – 12,377 in Canberra, 34,126 at Suncorp.

    The Brumbies had been bitching all week their coach Jake White could possibly leave them in the first of his four-year contract to coach England.

    By the 48th minute the Brumbies were trailing 23-10, and never looked in the hunt until Wallaby centre Pat McCabe, playing on the wing, injected himself into the fray.

    His try, and an 8-2 favourable penalty count in the last 32 minutes from Kiwi referee Keith Brown saw the Brumbies whittle away the deficit to win at the death with the last penalty on the full-time siren.

    The defending champion Reds can thank winger Dom Shipperly for remaining unbeaten after three rounds.

    At the start of the tournament, the Waratahs casually kicked away possession in the last minute for Shipperly to race 75 metres to touch down for a Reds 26-24 win.

    Last night he was the only try-scorer in a penalty-dominated game. But the plaudits go to the Rebels for a marvellous defensive effort under pressure, their best yet.

    That was a huge plus, but the Rebels have an on-going major problem with their inability to score tries.

    Fix that, and the Rebels will be a genuine handful with crack Wallabies James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale new additions to the squad.

    But right now the Reds are the team to beat. And they don’t mind winning ugly.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • March 11th 2012 @ 5:31am
      Ash said | March 11th 2012 @ 5:31am | ! Report

      David the Tahs played the Highlanders not the Hurricanes.
      I was at the Red’s game. The Rebel’s defense was good. The Reds look like they are taking their time this season. When they wind things up the game looks a whole lot faster. I reckon their backline needs to push out one and bring Lucas into number 10.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download The Roar’s iPhone App in the App Store here.

      • Columnist

        March 11th 2012 @ 5:48am
        David Lord said | March 11th 2012 @ 5:48am | ! Report

        Of course you’re right Ash, it was the Highlanders, an inexcusable mistake.

    • March 11th 2012 @ 6:04am
      Sportym said | March 11th 2012 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      Tsk tsk… The roar experts are taking it very casually . Not even proof reading an article before submission, that is basic journalism 101 fail 🙂

      Time for everyone in Sydney to lift their game and get serious.

      Saving grace, hurricanes/highlanders won.

    • March 11th 2012 @ 6:52am
      mace 22 said | March 11th 2012 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      There were howlers from both sides. Just picking on one and saying that was the reason for the loss.Is forgetting the biggest howler was the charge down that lead to the waratah try. If that hadn’t of happened the losing margine would’ve been greater. At least you didn’t put the blame on bryce lawrence like some roarers in another article.

      • Roar Guru

        March 11th 2012 @ 9:26am
        jeznez said | March 11th 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Mace, I replied to you on the other thread but just in case you missed it, the crux of what I tried to say is that the Highlanders deserved to win byt Lawrence is an utter joke. The two points are not mutually exclusive.

        • March 11th 2012 @ 12:11pm
          steve.h said | March 11th 2012 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          So the world finally realises what South Africans have been saying since the Quarter finals…….. Lawrence better not think of stepping a foot on South African soil.

          • March 11th 2012 @ 12:59pm
            Sprigs said | March 11th 2012 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            Thanks for the memory, Steve. That was a great Wallaby victory and so well deserved.

        • March 11th 2012 @ 9:52pm
          mace 22 said | March 11th 2012 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

          Thanks for that but I never take any notice of the ref when watching a game. He is the sole enforcer of the laws on the field. So it’s up to the players to work out rulings and to adjust accordingly. If I concentrated to much on the ref I’d forget about the game and spend all the time yelling what a idiot he is. If lawrence was as bad as every one in the other two sanzaar countries say he is. I would think he’d be sacked

        • March 12th 2012 @ 5:21am
          mania said | March 12th 2012 @ 5:21am | ! Report

          bryce had a good game in the weekend. nothing like the wc quarters . sorry this loss comes down solely to the tah’s being boring and unimaginative. berrick was disapointing. did he run the ball at this game. remember him kicking for a ot of touch and only doing that avaeragely. barnes is not a percentage player, he needs to attack the line more.
          tah’s didnt look like they wanted to win.
          “… but the Rebels have an on-going major problem with their inability to score tries.Fix that, and the Rebels will be a genuine handful…” thanx captain obvious. scoring tries should be a focus for teams. wow rewrite the play books.

          • March 12th 2012 @ 10:37am
            Jimbo Jones said | March 12th 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            Play the ball not the man.. Of course scoring tries is the focus for all teams, but David was pointing out that they are stuggling to cross the try line.

      • Roar Guru

        March 11th 2012 @ 10:05am
        Wally James said | March 11th 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        The waratahs lost because they were not good enough. No doubt about that. End of story. They remain the great pretenders.

        However, Bryce Lawrence is far from a good referee and has never been any good. His whistle is a bleat not a blast. His demeanour is dour and nitpicking. In short his man managment skills are very poor. He is very slow around the paddock and is rarely in goal when a try is scored.

        Comment removed after consideration from Roar Mods. Thanks, please refrain from similar.

        • Roar Guru

          March 11th 2012 @ 10:59am
          jeznez said | March 11th 2012 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          waly, which part of me saying the highlanders deserved to win is distracted? we appear to be on the same page

          • Roar Guru

            March 11th 2012 @ 11:19am
            Wally James said | March 11th 2012 @ 11:19am | ! Report

            Sorry Jez. I meant to reinforce your comments, not critisize them.

        • Roar Guru

          March 11th 2012 @ 11:44am
          Atawhai Drive said | March 11th 2012 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          Out last night and have yet to see the game, but I always shudder when Bryce Lawrence is listed as the referee.

          He seems to lack feel for the game, and his hectoring lectures to players apparently stunned the Kiwi journos in the press box last night.

          All players want from a referee, from all referees, is consistency _ within a game and also from game to game.

          With Lawrence, there is no predicting whether he will nitpick or put the whistle in his pocket, as happened (to the Wallabies’ benefit) in a memorable World Cup match last year.

          A separate issue is that of neutral referees. Either that’s the policy or it isn’t.

          But Wally, we need to be very cautious about mentioning Lawrence’s family background and the Kiwi background of SANZAR and IRB refererring heavies as a possible reason behind his appointment to big games.

          As any defamation lawyer will tell you, simply saying “no one is saying those blokes are biased or cheats” when you have implied otherwise is no defence if someone such as Keith Lawrence decides to sue.

          Who’d be a referee? I was, for a while. What a nightmare (for the players as much as me).

          • Roar Guru

            March 11th 2012 @ 2:16pm
            Wally James said | March 11th 2012 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

            atawhai, your point is well taken about defamation. I suppose the first thing to say about that is fair comment is always a defence.

            Secondly, i did not intend to imply, those lads are biased or cheats. All three were very senior refs. Their integrity is not something I impugn nor should it be.

            But there must be some reasson for the continued appointment of a fellow who seems to have reached his level of incompetence. Since his appointments appear inexplicable on the face of his performances it is not unreasonable to think there may be some other basis for them. All I suggest is, it is difficult for justice to be seen to be done with the close personal relationships I have referred to. It is only natural that unconscious impartiality occurs. Were it otherwise a French ref might have got the RWC final.

            On the other hand, the limited number of people who have the qualifiactions to coach and assess at this level means it is nigh on impossible to eradicate this as a problem. It is a vexed question, I agree with you.

            All I say is, it’s palpably obvious Bryce is not up to the job. There are reasons he continues to be appointed. Perhaps what I suggested might be one of them.

            • March 11th 2012 @ 3:00pm
              Darwin Stubbie said | March 11th 2012 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

              Have you bothered to consider that the people you mention know far, far more about the implementation of the laws of the game and the overall assessment of referees and that in fact you’re the one who is possible not impartial in this matter and your judgement has been clouded by bias and often incorrect commentary and analysis

              Lawerence would not have got to where he is and remained there if he was even 10% as incompetent as has been made out by the print press, blog commentators and TV pundits over the last few years … No-one in Aust seemed too bothered with his performances in the SR final or W-cup quarter last year

              The fact is NSW were outplayed last night and were run off their feet .. The possession, tackle and territory stats tell the story …. But for one piece of opportunism they didn’t look like scoring a try … Any possession they got the kicked away and it was only their defence and infringing that kept them in it … Instead of searching for excuses perhaps the question should be being asked why are the Aust teams not scoring tries

              • Roar Guru

                March 11th 2012 @ 3:27pm
                Wally James said | March 11th 2012 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

                In fact Darwin, old chap I have considered that and dismissed it. I am not a NSW supporter. I don’t rely on commentary but on my own observations.

                The people I have mentioned do not have any greater knowledge of the implementation of the Laws than me. They simply disagree with me as to that. I think they are wrong but clearly, if they knew my view, they would think me wrong.

                I was bothered about the RWC final where Australia won. I thought Bryce was incompetent then too, just as he was when Ireland won in the upset Pool game. Australia did not dserve to win in either game I thought. His incompetence is not caused by the teams playing.

                I would like to know why Australian teams are not scoring tries and I would also like to know why Bryce keeps getting appointed. The two are not mutually exclusive.

            • Roar Guru

              March 11th 2012 @ 3:54pm
              Atawhai Drive said | March 11th 2012 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

              Well argued, Wally. Certainly, Bryce Lawrence does seem to struggle at the elite level.

              You would hope a bit of NRL-type ruthlessness in assessing referees’ performance might apply.

              • Roar Guru

                March 12th 2012 @ 8:07am
                Wally James said | March 12th 2012 @ 8:07am | ! Report

                Thanks Atawhai. it’s a good point you raise. I’m a big believer in Refs being as accountable as players for how they perform.

                Some times the League cutthroat approach can work. It gives the ref a wake up call to mind his ps and qs. It can be detrimental sometimes though I think. If the mistake is a one off then I think dropping a bloke is harsh. I mean Grant Fox, Michael Lynagh and Wilko weren’t dropped for misjudging a kick at goal.

                One mistake shouldn’t mean a ref is dropped of how much it affected the outcome of the game. if that applied to top players Giteau would never have been selected after Scotland a few years ago. But if if there is consistent missing of things then off to the lower grades a ref should go.

      • March 11th 2012 @ 11:45am
        Samvandamn said | March 11th 2012 @ 11:45am | ! Report

        Agree, a long with that charge down the Highlanders missed two kicks from out front.
        If you ask me it was the Highlanders game to lose to the Waratahs game to win.

        The Waratahs were out played in most facets of the game.

    • March 11th 2012 @ 7:11am
      Stanly Grella said | March 11th 2012 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      The Hughlanders missed a conversion from in front as well and a penalty, it wasn’t Hangers one act.

      The Tahs git beaten by a team on top of there form last night, but only by 1, I don’t think there was anything casual about it, if there was they would have got touched up by 20

    • March 11th 2012 @ 7:56am
      Blinky Bill of Bellingen said | March 11th 2012 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Actually I’m still sitting here wondering how we only lost by 1. 🙂

      I predicted a 12 point loss & to me the Highlanders looked the better team. They have more punch in their back line and are extremely dangerous. Whereas we seem light-on. 🙁

      I’m not sure how the 2 play maker thing went as I don’t recall anything much going on by our backs. We were willing enough but looked like featherweights in comparison. 🙁

      Which must mean that Foley’s game plan or the defence or something that I can’t manage to put my finger on (until I watch the tape again), must have worked. 😉

      Here’s hoping Pat McCutcheon makes a good recovery.

    • Roar Guru

      March 11th 2012 @ 8:28am
      stillmissit said | March 11th 2012 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      It strikes me that the Kiwi’s have stepped up a level particularly at the breakdown and it showed in the Waratahs v Highlanders. The other area we seem to be poor at is the offload. We seem to be happy to go one off, take the tackle commit only enough to win our ball and then go one off again. Seems dumb to me – am I missing something?

      The breakdown is a complicated area but the Kiwi’s seem to have a plan about what to attack when and with the right numbers, then what to leave alone. We seem to be running a 10 year old ‘don’t commit too much at the breakdown’ system, which I personally hate.

      I thought the Australian teams would look better this year including the Reds but I think the Kiwi’s have upped the ante and we seem to have gone nowhere. Staying ahead of your opposition makes more sense than chasing or worse copying them.

      • March 11th 2012 @ 3:28pm
        Nicol'arse said | March 11th 2012 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        Agree 100% Stillmissit. The Highlanders schooled us at the breakdown. Their counter-rucking was awesome. All Australian teams could learn a thing or two about how to “dominate the space in front of the ball” at the breakdown. Its BLOODY effective!!

        I understand that “attacking kicking” is an essential part of the game… but to announce it as your defining strategy is just plain stupid isn’t it?

        The Highlanders were happy to run it back at us all night… and thank god our defense was impressive because they should have won by more.

        Normally I would bemoan the Tahs lack of enthusiasm (or fight in the dog)… but last night they had it in spades. What they lacked was rugby “smarts”. Kicking the ball to your opposition as a strategy when you are outside your 22 and unlikely to find touch is just gifting them back possession. And if you don’t have chasers all over it to apply pressure down the other end, then please tell me what is the flamin’ point?

        Rugby is nowhere near as complicated a game as some of these professional coaches make it out to be. Hats off to you Jamie Joseph. I reckon the Highlanders are playing the game the way its meant to be played…HARD up front to win the ball, then let your backs run with it. When it breaks down, get there and clear it out to win it again. Kick when you have to and the opportunity presents itself… otherwise back yourself to run it and maintain possession by going hard at the breakdown. That’s the strategy. Now learn how to do it.

        The NZ teams tend to do this. Now why can’t we follow suit?

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