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Waratahs winning ugly sure beats the hell out of losing

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Expert
23rd February, 2019
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Last week at Brookvale, a missed last-minute penalty from Bernard Foley cost the Waratahs a win over the Hurricanes. They lost by a point without possession, nor territory.

Yesterday afternoon in Tokyo, the Waratahs enjoyed an abundance of possession and territory, but fell over the line 31-30, winning ugly.

Go figure.

Watching the Waratahs wavers between scintillating rugby and plain bloody stupidity.

It begs the question how can the Waratahs, with so many Wallabies, be so inconsistent throughout the 80 minutes?

Take out Israel Folau, whose two tries yesterday saw the brilliant playmaker become Australia’s highest Super Rugby try-scorer with 58, leaving behind former Brumby-Wallaby winger Joe Roff’s 56, and there wasn’t much to get excited about.

Why Folau isn’t fed more ball more often defies description. He’s a try waiting to happen.

Even though an ugly win sure beats the hell out of losing, Waratah fans expect, in fact demand, more of their side.

Israel Folau tries to beat Irish players

Israel Folau tries to beat Irish players with the ball. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

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But for some unfathomable reason, the Waratahs just can’t reach their expected performance bar despite having the talent to do so.

Folau apart, the first-time pairing of Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt in the centres looms as a big positive. I predicted it would be – and I was pilloried for suggesting it. It must be given more time to prosper.

And halfback Jake Gordon is a welcome change from the dithering Nick Phipps, but that’s where the positives abruptly end.

The first half scrums were an embarrassment, losing two tight-heads, but there was a dramatic improvement in the second.

But the 23 missed tackles, and 19 turnovers, always cost the Waratahs a lot of territory, and added pressure.

This was from a side the Waratahs had twice smashed last season to the tune of 50-29, and 77-25, scoring 19 tries to seven.

The reason?

On those two days the Waratahs got the rugby basics right of pass, catch, support, retain possession and tackle.

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Yesterday they forgot those basics, which led skipper Michael Hooper to describe his side as playing like the Harlem Globetrotters – and were lucky to get away with it.

Why didn’t Hooper stop them in the first half, let alone let them continue to “globe-trot” throughout the second?

The first six minutes gave Waratahs fans a stark preview of what was in store.

In the first minute Rob Simmons had an intercept gift-wrapped, but his butter fingers knocked on with the try-line just ten metres away – and not a Sunwolf in sight.

In the third, Hunt had a look at a perfect pass from Beale and knocked on to end a very promising move.

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In the fifth, hooker Damian Fitzpatrick tried the hero act of a dummy when he had Hunt and Alex Newsome outside him to bomb another try.

And in the sixth, winger Curtis Rona dived for the try-line, but spilled the ball mid-air to deny another try.

In the 13th at 7-7, Hooper knocked back a penalty from right in front to order a scrum, only to suffer the indignity of losing a tighthead.

Rubbish rugby in so many areas.

To give the Sunwolves credit, they kept coming time after time with far more positive rugby than the visitors.

And like last week, when Foley missed a sitter to lose by a point, Sunwolves left-footed flyhalf Hayden Parker, who hadn’t missed a kick all afternoon, bombed a drop goal from right in front on full-time to cost a win.

The Sunwolves were impressive, but to those who question why the Sunwolves are in the Super Rugby tournament, they have a valid point.

In their 52-strong roster there are 36 foreigners – 69 per cent – with 21 Kiwis, six South Africans, four Australians, three Tongans, and one each from Fiji and Georgia.

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So what good is that doing for Japanese rugby?

But there was one 80-minute positive at Prince Chichibu Stadium yesterday that holds 21,188 and was comfortably full, and that was South African referee Adriaan Jacobs on debut.

Unlike his compatriots before him like Andre Watson and Jonathan Kaplan who were show-ponies, and in their mind the number one on the paddock, Jacobs was number 31 and did a superb job staying out of the way in general play, and out of the limelight.

Long may that be the case, rugby deserves a genuine referee.

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