Waratahs dip out, but close the gap

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Michael Cheika has a lot to think about. How can he get the Wallabies back to the top? (Image: AAP)

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    A phone caller yesterday morning reckoned the first time Waratah comeback centre Berrick Barnes touched the ball in general play at Allianz Stadium last night he would kick it. He did.

    The result – seven points to the Cheetahs in the first two minutes on their way to a 27-26 victory.

    But hold the phone, the Waratahs only put the boot to the ball 10 times in 80 minutes, coach Michael Cheika is at last getting the message through – ball in hand boys, ball in hand.

    The 12,263 crowd were appreciative – that’s about a 1,000 more than last time, which was the Waratahs’ poorest ever.

    But if the men in blue keep running and, more importantly, start winning, that crowd will double.

    There was a lot to like about the Waratahs.

    Those 10 kicks were the highlight compared to the Cheetahs 21, the Highlanders 22, and the Hurricanes 19.

    So were the eight missed tackles by the Tahs to 19, and just four penalties conceded to 11.

    Then the crunch. After all that good work, 19 Waratah turnovers to just nine.

    Damn it. It was so frustrating.

    The Tahs led at the break for the first time in four matches by 23-20, and led by the same score with 10 minutes to go.

    But burly winger Raymond Rhule scored his second try for the Cheetahs, it was converted, and Brendan McKibbin landed a late penalty for 27-26.

    Rhule was a standout, so too Cheetah half-back Sarel Pretorius, man-of-the-match for the second week in a row.

    He never played like that for the Tahs last year, and had he been in blue last night, the Waratahs would have won. No doubt about that.

    I have just one criticism of Cheika’s game plan – the number of forwards swanning in the backline.

    Last night when there was a breakdown, there were always at least five Cheetah forwards on hand to two, maybe three, Tahs.

    The obvious result, no contest, or turnover.

    But Cheika and his men can take a lot of pluses out of last night, despite the loss.

    Michael Hooper had his best game of the tournament, while winger Peter Betham switched from hero to villain twice.

    The first was when Betham scored a great try through sheer determination, and moments later Hooper made a spectacular bust and Betham over-ran him.

    Dumb rugby, and another try was bombed. Betham knew it too, and he gave himself a verbal uppercut.

    Adam Ashley-Cooper did nothing wrong all night, he defended and ran strongly, resulting in a try near oranges.

    New recruit Israel Folau is more at home every game, his one-season AFL high-marking came in handy three times to save the day.

    Despite being howled down last time I mentioned it, Folau is wasted out the back. He should be using his size and speed in the midfield to create havoc, and have Adam Ashley-Cooper running off him.

    But it was Hooper, and prop Paddy Ryan, who did the most damage up front.

    Can’t see Test prop Sekope Kepu making it back in a hurry with Ryan in marauding mode, while locks Kane Douglas and Sitaleki Timani had their moments of glory.

    They are big strong blokes who have a bit of toe, but don’t get the ball in hand enough. Wasted talent.

    And those two words just about summed up the Waratahs loss last night – wasted talent.

    It’s there, and high time they realised it.

    Stick with your coach, he’ll get you there sooner than later.

    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 (177)

    • March 16th 2013 @ 4:06am
      bluerose said | March 16th 2013 @ 4:06am | ! Report

      it was an improved performance by the Waratahs, Paddy Ryan was fantastic with his bulldozing runs, it would have been a different outcome had McKibben nailed all his penalty kicks.

    • March 16th 2013 @ 4:21am
      kingplaymaker said | March 16th 2013 @ 4:21am | ! Report

      Waratahs ‘supporters’ are letting the team down, after years of it being the other way round. The moment they try to play the running rugby they have been blamed for not playing, the supporters don’t appreciate it.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 11:39pm
        Hightackle said | March 16th 2013 @ 11:39pm | ! Report

        Thats becuz Australia fans dont know what they want. They go on and on about running rugby being “winning rugby” but its not and I was astonished that so many truely believed it was.
        You can win with running rugby but running rugby is not winning rugby. Often teams that hardly run the ball win becuz they may be playing to their strengths.
        Last year when Australia got beaten by France, Aust was the team running the ball more often and kicking less but (imo) it was Australias worst loss of the year.
        Teams must play smart rugby and if the Tahs are not going to kick and are going to run the ball every game, they will not do very well.
        Its not rugby league.

    • March 16th 2013 @ 4:21am
      matty said | March 16th 2013 @ 4:21am | ! Report

      close the gap or not. They lost. Its simple and clear cut.

      I dont know why people are still making up excuses for this team. Its not how you play, it what shows up on the score after 80min. Reminds me of those trying to back Deans. How many more losses until we accept that the Tahs are not living up to the hype they were given?

      If the Tahs dont string together consecutive wins in the next couple of rounds then thats another season gone. In the next 7 rounds (bar their bye round they are playing 5 (Blues,Hurricanes, Chiefs, Bulls, Kings) non Australian sides.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2013 @ 12:31pm
        jeznez said | March 16th 2013 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        They won four games last year, I’ll be happy if they manage six. That is going to be a big ask though. They have the Rebels one more time and the Force twice, play the Kings over there and have to win at least one other to hit my rather low goal. Has to be one random upset in there. Maybe the Blues in Sydney or even better the return game against he Reds?

        • March 16th 2013 @ 12:57pm
          Malo said | March 16th 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Jeznez I think your right about 6 games, I think we might be able to knock the reds off. Were you happy with T5 in particular the front row?

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2013 @ 2:31pm
            jeznez said | March 16th 2013 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

            Going t watch a replay this arvo. Game was on while I was still in the office.

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2013 @ 4:03pm
            jeznez said | March 16th 2013 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

            Just watched the first half – so far in the Tah tight five Ryan, Ulugia and Doulas have gone well.

            Robinson and Timani a bit anonymous at the break down. As I type this Robinson is going off before the second half kick off – something clearly not right with him.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 1:48pm
          Crazy Horse said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          The Force have beaten the Tahs several times and on current form will be beating them again this year.

          • March 16th 2013 @ 2:21pm
            Jutsie said | March 16th 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

            current form as in losing to the rebels and kings (disclaimer i am a rebels supporter :D)

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2013 @ 2:30pm
            jeznez said | March 16th 2013 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

            CH, it is certainly possible that the Force will beat the Tahs again – am only talking about the games most likely for the Tahs. Definitely cannot take the result for granted.

            I will say that on current form the Tahs beat the Rebels so should expect to beat sides the Rebs have beaten.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 1:46pm
        Stin said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        Completely disagree. After last year, for me at least, it’s all about how they play 1st and score board a distant second.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 16th 2013 @ 8:22pm
        Die hard said | March 16th 2013 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

        Closed the gap to the Cheeters perhaps? It would perhaps be more impressive if it was against one of the better teams.

    • March 16th 2013 @ 5:51am
      gormon Kinchley said | March 16th 2013 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      Timani gets plenty of opportunity, but doesn’t get the ball in hand enough. This seems to be because he can’t catch, which is a real shame as he’s enormous and could be a real great.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 7:03am
        Justin2 said | March 16th 2013 @ 7:03am | ! Report

        Frankly he gets the ball too much and doesn’t do enough with it. A few times last night he was driven backwards running high as a kite. He got higher going into contact, just awful. The other times he was doing a Higginbotham impersonation, just slower and less ability to beat a man or offload.

        I did see him take a line out win thugh, I think his second in his career…

        • March 16th 2013 @ 11:40am
          Glenn Condell said | March 16th 2013 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          Agreed. His brother is better value, with at least some leg drive and better hands. We have height and weight in the second row, but no hands. Timani and Douglas stopped our most promising movements stone dead by dropping or losing the pill in contact, and not just once.

          Other issues – Dennis’s top of the lineout service to McKibbin was terrible at least twice, because he bashed the ball down at 90 mph. McKibbin’s passing from the ruck was at times shocking, passes almost clearing the recipient’s head.

          But yes there was a lot to like as well. Good to see Foley chasing the ball wanting to run or distribute, Paddy Ryan must surely have bumped the serially underwhelming Kepu to the bench (wish we had similarly dynamic options at lock). We will never be able to say ‘the centre cannot hold’ when Horne and AAC are playing there; what a great defensive wall, but on the flip side not much line-breaking bite in attack. Betham should have been given a shot earlier on that form and the reports from NZ, though I must say I thought Drrew Mitchell a bit hard done by. He at least had a few goes in the previous few weeks and sparked a few things.

          Folau keeps getting better too, great in the air, sound defence and increasingly getting the rhythm in attack. Ruck technique needs work and still a bit too sideways but he always seems to end up a few metres further forward than you expect and he is looking for the offload now. Not perhaps in the form Wallaby squad yet but not far off.

          Best thing was that for whole minutes, we had SHAPE. For successive rucks at times we had forward momentum and cohesion. How long since we have been able to say that on attack the Tahs were coming at the opposition in waves?

          I don’t really think Cheika has the cattle to give it a shake yet but the culture, the mindset etc needed change as a first step and this performance gives some hope that this is happening.

          • March 16th 2013 @ 1:49pm
            Stin said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            Lucas deserves a shot, if we can trust Foley’s goal kicking…

        • March 16th 2013 @ 12:08pm
          Blinky Bill of Bellingen said | March 16th 2013 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          Anyone spot the moment Folau (I believe) was looking to off load to his right, spotted Timani out wide and opted to pass the other way? To me that says it all really!

        • March 16th 2013 @ 1:08pm
          Simon_Sez said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          I agree with Justin2, Timani for his size should be a real weapon bending and breaking the defensive line of the oppositon, but he just isn’t doing this task at all. The only way to beat a team like the Cheetahs is to suck in the Cheetah defenders at the rucks and break or bend the line. Haven’t the Wallaby / Waratah forwards heard of the pick and drive? The initiative to mix up the game plan should also come from the captain in this case Dave Dennis, again and for the second week in a row, he failed to show the required leadership skills to make a the Waratahs a winning team.

    • March 16th 2013 @ 5:51am
      Billy Bob said | March 16th 2013 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      Matty, ‘simple and clear cut” ?
      Maybe to you.
      Many, like myself, find the scoreboard pretty simple ant the result obvious. But then we look at other things like trends, signs that the team might be making a deeper change towards a more exciting style of play.
      Far from ‘making excuses’ there is another conversation going on here.
      I am not trying to ‘back Deans’ but again, who of us has any power to appoint or sack him?

      • March 16th 2013 @ 6:07am
        matty said | March 16th 2013 @ 6:07am | ! Report

        how many ‘signs’ do you lot need.

        The Tahs play 5 games + preseason warm up games and only come away with 1 win. To say they lost but are just starting to play some good attacking rugby at this point just shows the problems underlying the tahs…and their fans.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 9:24am
          p.Tah said | March 16th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          Well leave us to watch the development of OUR team. We’d like it to be progressing quicker but they’ll get there.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 10:14am
          Newter said | March 16th 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          Yeah but half the team weren’t there for the preseason. They were on Wallaby tour, and then mandated leave. Cheikha is having to do the work of a preseason within the competition proper. I think we’re seeing the same problems with the Crusaders who have so many All Blacks missing their preseason.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 1:39pm
        Ra said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        What’s Deans got to do with Tah’s bad 2013 form. Those Waratah Wallabies look nothing like the players who performed courageously for Deans last year. Maybe you need to look at your own 2012 coach and start pointing the finger there. Gotta wonder whether he’s up to the job.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 1:57pm
          Ra said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          Oops meant to be 2013 coach

    • March 16th 2013 @ 6:08am
      Billy Bob said | March 16th 2013 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      Now, I have made a point on many threads about the way individuals get ridiculed by anonymous posters (us), in a way that is unfair, prejudiced and unproductive.
      And I am not going to break from my standards now, but Brendan McKibbon tests me.
      He is one of five professional starting halfbacks in the country.
      He is also one of five 5! Professional starting goal kickers in the country.
      Why the hell can he not throw a straight pass to a first receiver’s hands? All game? or kick a goal from near in front?

      I don’t want to death ride the kid, because maybe he has off field challenges that I cannot fathom. And everyone has an off game. But the highlanders /Canes game was distinct for its crisp ball skills from the base, in comparison .
      Every good team needs efficiency between 8 and 12. And for all the money and effort spent at the Tahs, they have not created this efficiency yet.
      What is going on Mr Cheika?

      • March 16th 2013 @ 6:29am
        Dan H said | March 16th 2013 @ 6:29am | ! Report

        Im only throwing this out here but could conditioning be his problem? Im not a tahs fan so I dont watch him that closely but I know from personal experience and being unfit recently at training that being gassed can take the accuracy and about 5m off your pass. If its not that and he cant do the things hes employed to do and no improvement is shown soon it would probably be time to try new combinations. Its a pretty important position and once again I feel sorry for the tahs with phipps lining up *shudder*.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 7:06am
        Justin2 said | March 16th 2013 @ 7:06am | ! Report

        Throw foley, who I like, in too. Can’t pass properly left to right. A standing for a 10. Neither are as bad as sarel though, worst pass for a pro 9 in the world. Lucky he can run.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 9:17am
        Albo said | March 16th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        I think Matt Lucas should have been given a run last night. McKibbon’s kicking is important but I think Bernard Foley is as good a kicker.

        Matt Lucas plays a lot like Sarel Pretorious. His quick feet spread the piggies wide at the base to create holes around the ruck.

      • March 16th 2013 @ 11:21am
        CJ said | March 16th 2013 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        Agree Billy Bob. McKibbon is an absolute rubbish 9! His passes are slow and always behind the man (or bouncing in front of them). He is farcically bad.
        Surely 1 of the other 2 in the squad can throw a pass?

      • March 16th 2013 @ 1:55pm
        Ra said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

        If he was coaching NRL or Super League it would be game-set-and-Cheika Mate

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