How the Waratahs opened the floodgates and ended Australia’s drought

Matt Porter Roar Guru

By Matt Porter, Matt Porter is a Roar Guru

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    Opening the floodgates is a sure-fire way to break a drought. The Waratahs rained in six tries to the Highlanders two at Allianz Stadium last night, to end a two-year and 40-match dry spell for Aussie teams in trans-Tasman fixtures.

    It was a great response by the Tahs to last week’s gut-wrencher against the Crusaders.

    The key moment came in the 19th minute with the home side 8-0 up, Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura jumped up for a high ball but decided to do his best Bruce Lee impression on the way down with a boot to Cam Clark’s face.

    The intention was obvious as Nabura locked eyes on his opposing wing as he proceeded to sink his studs into his mush.

    Although Kiwi referee Brendon Pickerill, the TV commentators (including Clark’s dad Greg, who maintained a stoic silence as the replays were shown) and most viewers missed it in real time, a check upstairs confirmed the deliberate action and Nabura was red-carded out of the game.

    While not justice for Joe Moody’s elbow on Kurtley Beale in Christchurch last Saturday, it was some sort of consolation.

    The equation got harder again for the visitors when their spark plug Aaron Smith got pulled from the game for 10 when binned for deliberately knocking the ball down.

    Monster wing Taqele Naiyaravoro had scored the first try of the match with a hot-stepping effort to the line in the 15th minute following some excellent lead-up work from Beale and Israel Folau.

    Naiyaravoro struck again while the Highlanders had just 13 on the pitch, getting enough fingertips on the ball over the line to have the Tahs up 15-zip.

    Despite a few streaky moments late in the half, including dropped balls and inexplicable kicking away of possession, often down the throat of normally deadly counter attacker Waisake Naholo, the Tahs retained the margin into the break.

    ‘Surely, we can’t stuff it up from here like we did last week’ is what none of the Tahs’ players would have said at halftime but many would have been excused for thinking.

    The determination to finish the job and end the hoodoo was palpable in the opening moments of the second spell when they won their own kick off and two phases later Bernard Foley, who had an excellent game, successfully marketed a dummy to hare up the field and send Curtis Rona over the line but unable to ground the ball.

    Two minutes later Folau was in for the first of his two tries in the opposite corner from where Foley banged over the extras, for the perfect start to the half.

    The hoodoo demons briefly appeared when the Highlanders opened their scoring from the next play when Ben Smith put a smart kick pass to an unmarked Elliot Dixon for a converted try.

    However, home fears abated in the 55th minute when Folau crashed over for his second for the night and 50th try all up for the Tahs, at the end of a sweeping coast-to-coast movement, which Foley again converted from near the sideline.

    Again, the visitors responded immediately, this time via their other Dixon, co-captain Ash, crashing over at the end of a nicely constructed lineout drive.

    But that was to be the full extent of this kiwi comeback as the Tahs powered away with two more tries to Lalakai Foketi and Rona, to end a great blight on Australian rugby.

    Although Tahs skipper Michael Hooper was having nothing of the hoodoo talk post-match.

    “If you’d asked me before the game I wouldn’t have said anything about it, now it doesn’t matter,” he snapped.

    “It’s frustrating to hear that all the time and it was the last thing we were thinking about.”

    Whatevs.

    The streak-breaking win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time given Paul Cully’s obituary for Australian Super Rugby in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald.

    “This competition is dead in Australia. Finito. Over. The golden goose became a turkey and it’s now a dodo,” Cully wrote in his exhortation for Aussie rugby to stick it to SANZAAR and ‘go it alone’.

    Well, the dodo has just been given the faintest kiss of life.

    The Tahs are away to the Chiefs next Saturday, who will be making the long trip back from South Africa after a 24-28 loss to the Sharks this morning.

    Meanwhile the Reds, who kept the all-conquering Hurricanes to within four points in Wellington on Friday, are hosting the Highlanders straight afterwards.

    Could an Aussie trans-Tasman winning streak go a full week?

    New South Wales have won the 2018 State of Origin series with an 18-14 win in an absolutely outstanding Game 2 at ANZ Stadium. See how the action unfolded with our NSW vs QLD Origin 2 scores, highlights and blog.

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • May 20th 2018 @ 10:03am
      Reverse Wheel said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Interesting call on that Rona no try, I thought one of the later angles showed the ball pretty clearly on the ground.

      • May 20th 2018 @ 11:11am
        OZ Rugby Fan said | May 20th 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        Certainly looked that way to me, I was surprised they didn’t give that Rona try. He had another good game I thought.

        Probably the only Waratah player who had a bit of a shocker was young Jake Gordon. Hopefully he learns a lot from that match as he has shown so much promise recently.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 20th 2018 @ 11:53am
          Paulo said | May 20th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          I think the last angle showed his hand underneath it, rather than touching the ground. The movement after would suggest it got on the ground, but given the on field call was no try, they have to have clear vision of leather on dirt. Consistent with other calls this year.

          • Roar Guru

            May 20th 2018 @ 12:32pm
            PeterK said | May 20th 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            agree

          • May 20th 2018 @ 4:18pm
            OZ Rugby Fan said | May 20th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            Ah, fair enough. I must not have been able to see it well enough. To be fair I was watching it on a small screen in the distance over a bunch of screaming NRL fans watching their game on the big screen…

            • Roar Rookie

              May 21st 2018 @ 11:04am
              piru said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

              I thought he might have slid it onto the line, and I think Ayoub did too the number of times he replayed the last angle.

              Ref said it was a no try though, so needed a clear and obvious grounding to reverse the call

    • Roar Rookie

      May 20th 2018 @ 10:16am
      atlas said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      What’s the guess for Nabura’s suspension? 6 weeks? More? Be disappointing if they do discounts for good behavior, remorse (I didn’t see any).

      • Roar Rookie

        May 20th 2018 @ 11:54am
        Paulo said | May 20th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        Maybe six weeks and based on clean record and early guilty plea dropped to 4? Not what I think he should get, but my prediction.

        • May 20th 2018 @ 12:11pm
          Jacko said | May 20th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          It is only his 8th game so surely that cannot include any good behaviour parts…Moody has 65 games without a yellow and he EARNT a good behaviour discount but not here ….I see it as very similar to the brumbies winger on Dagg but that Ended Daggs year and possibly career so should be about the same…5 weeks

          • Roar Guru

            May 20th 2018 @ 3:35pm
            Matt Porter said | May 20th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

            Good call Jacko.

            • May 20th 2018 @ 3:57pm
              cuw said | May 20th 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

              3 weeks – after alll considerations.

              the player affected was ok , i did not even see any injury.

              it was a rubbish action of an inexperienced player.

              the guy who whacked Dagg had a history and Dagg is out for months.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 20th 2018 @ 4:33pm
                Paul D said | May 20th 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

                Clark was bleeding from the mouth. Probabaly superficial damage but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 20th 2018 @ 7:02pm
                Paulo said | May 20th 2018 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

                That brings up the sentencing on outcome, not intent or action debate. He didn’t get that hurt, but, it could have broken his jaw without much effort, and certainly no more effort from the kick. The extent of injury was really determined by his speed on impact. I didn’t realize he was only 8 games into his career. Does not bode well for future prospects if that is what he is like.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 3:03am
        Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:03am | ! Report

        Atlas, regarding the logic of Nabura’s ‘criminal’ lack of ‘remorse’ – Because Moody showed so much ‘remorse’ on his way to the try line?

        I am going to break ranks here.
        I don’t think that Nabura’s act was as bad as many are making out.
        No doubt he made deliberate contact with his foot. No doubt the point of contact was Clarke’s head.

        But the context was the vulnerability of being high in the air (after a brilliant catch btw), coming down with a player in very close proximity. I sensed that his may have been an intention to ‘push’ rather than ‘strike’ the tackler, out of fear of contact while in the air.
        Reckless, yes, extremely so. His foot contacted the player’s head, not his shoulder or chest. And it was his extended boot studs, not his thigh or bent knee (which are often used in aerial contact without sanction) that made contact.

        It was extremely reckless and clumsy and begging for a card. But this theatrical ‘boot to the head’ rhetoric around his suspension is OTT. He is no Richard Loe. I can hear Paul Carozza echoing Crocodile Dundee -“ that’s not a thump in the head, THIS is a thump in the head.”
        Similarly, the moral equivalence/comparison given to the Joe Moody game changing incident is ridiculous. Nabura’s action was not cynical, seeking advantage, performed from an offside position, deliberately vicious or result in a try.
        Give the kid a break.
        He recklessly used the wrong part of his body to protect himself while in the air. He does not deserve big weeks for a moment’s stupidity.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 8:10am
          Jacko said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

          Sorry ken but he looked straight at Clarkes head before kicking him…Nothing reckless as it was a deliberate action.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 21st 2018 @ 11:06am
            piru said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            I tend to agree, I thought he was trying to be clever and initiate a touch in the air and maybe milk a penalty.

            The kick was simply too good to have been deliberate – they aren’t doing Kung Fu in Dunedin I don’t think

            That said – red all day regardless, can’t be going all Ryu on the wing

            • May 21st 2018 @ 4:32pm
              cuw said | May 21st 2018 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

              it was a good kick wasnt it? shades of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.

              i mean its not that east to do it without having to catch the ball.

              also not forgetting that he put himself in danger – if he did not land properly , could easily twist the ankle.

              not something u see often as foul play goes.

          • Roar Guru

            May 21st 2018 @ 6:06pm
            pformagg said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

            In slow mo, it looked worst. Look at it in normal speed, and it is a different story.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 2:03pm
          cinque said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          Yeah, and maybe Billy Slater is his hero

        • Roar Guru

          May 21st 2018 @ 7:05pm
          Timbo (L) said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:05pm | ! Report

          I will stand with you Ken.

          I used to be a long and high jumper and have an appreciation for the challenges controlling a body in the air.
          {Gymnasts and Diver’s please don’t react, you are awesome but are half the mass and you usually land on something soft. The next part of your routine doesn’t involve being leveled by a large Fijian gentleman}.

          When you jump off 1 leg, the body has a tenancy to rotate in the air. Long jumpers use the gyroscopic properties of a a hitch-kick to stay straight, Nabura looked like he had forgotten this and was in the process of rotating through 90 degrees and didn’t want to take a shot to the kidneys or back when he landed.

          If my observations are correct, I would say that players in all sides are being trained to land pointy side forwards and tuck their knees before landing to maximize time in the air. This discourages the tackler and can draw a penalty for a late hit.

          I don’t buy the argument that making eye contact per-meditation, all good players are looking to what was going to happen next, and in his case, it was being owned by Cam Clarke. It did help him hit his target though.

          In real time it looked like he got his execution wrong and the contact with Clarke’s head was a soft tap and not a vicious kick.
          Sill deserved a Red Card but rubbed out for many weeks might be unfair.

          I think Moody’s incident is overdone too. Beale and Moody charged at each other, Beale dropped his elbows just before making contact, Moody didn’t have the same piece of mind and made a contact negligently.

        • May 24th 2018 @ 5:30pm
          Dean said | May 24th 2018 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

          I’m with you Ken. (Or should I call you Leg?)

          Moody’s action (and Loe’s for those old enough to remember) were totally premeditated dog acts by wily thugs who thought they could get away with it because they’d gotten away with similar acts many times before. Nabura’s looked more like a young, inexperienced guy who made a sudden bad decision in a stressful situation.

    • May 20th 2018 @ 10:18am
      Itsme said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      1 win over a team who played with 14 men for 60 minutes and everything is ok in Australian rugby again.

      Pays to note the Chiefs All Black contingent will be nice and rested after having the week off.

      I sense the Tahs will be brought back to earth very quickly.

      • May 20th 2018 @ 10:54am
        Jameswm said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        Nice straw man argument.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 20th 2018 @ 11:56am
          Paulo said | May 20th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          As a stanch Kiwi supporter, let’s be honest, the Tahs won that, and even without the card I think they would have got there. They were ahead before the card and managed to pull way ahead after. Credit where it’s due and no excuses.

          • Roar Guru

            May 20th 2018 @ 3:36pm
            Matt Porter said | May 20th 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            I tend to agree Paulo.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 21st 2018 @ 11:07am
            piru said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            Agree Paulo, I’m sure the card had an impact, but I don’t think it’s what lost the Highlanders the game.

            A bit like Moody’s magic elbow, the magic karate kick is just a convenient excuse

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2018 @ 7:11pm
        Timbo (L) said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

        Agree, it wasn’t a fair fight.
        The win belongs to that Tahs, fair and square, but I would caution using the performance a a benchmark for brilliance.

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I Don’t think the Highlanders were resting anyone.

    • May 20th 2018 @ 10:28am
      waxhead said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Winning at home against 13 and 14 men for 60 minutes is nothing to get excited about imo.
      If any pro team can’t do that they should forget rugby and take up darts.

      With 15 against 15 it would have been reverse the scores as usual.

      • May 20th 2018 @ 10:53am
        Jameswm said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

        Whatever you reckon. I’m very happy about the win.

      • May 20th 2018 @ 11:28am
        double agent said | May 20th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Doubtful.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 2:08pm
        cinque said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

        It’s possible. If Aaaron Smith’s try gets awarded, who knows? A close call.

    • May 20th 2018 @ 10:38am
      Fred said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      Any truth to the rumour Rona is departing shortly?

    • Roar Rookie

      May 20th 2018 @ 10:49am
      Andre Leslie said | May 20th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      It was telling how Hooper after the game said that he wasn’t at all concerned about the losing streak…. and was sick of hearing about it.

      Good sportsmen focus on improving themselves and don’t worry about superstitions or bad luck.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 2:28am
        Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:28am | ! Report

        Andre, I for one found Hooper’s little spaz embarrassing. Sure he was tired, but he had just won a game and could have been more gracious.
        He actually gave evidence to contradict himself. Of course they were counting the losing streak. And of course there was relief after breaking the drought. And Hooper’s impatience with Cannon offers proof of that.

        Hooper’s performance at this interview did not have ‘test captain’ wriiten all over it.

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