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Watching the Waratahs is the ultimate frustration

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Expert
4th May, 2019
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Two days ago veteran flyhalf Bernard Foley said that without Israel Folau the Waratahs had to nail the detail and the execution every time they get the opportunity.

The quote was spot on, but yet again the application fell way short.

It was like watching a car smash – you could see it about to happen, but couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

Last night at Loftus Versfeld, the Waratahs had the chance to join the Rebels and Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference – and blew it.

The Bulls won 28-21, but that included a perfect intercept pass from Nick Phipps to gift-wrap a try, Curtis Rona dropping the ball over the line midway through the second half and near full-time throwing a forward pass with a try on.

In between, Rona scored a try and with Foley’s touchline conversion, it was 21-all with ten minutes left on the clock.

Get the frustration picture?

But it gets worse.

In the first half not once, twice, or three times, but six times the Waratahs were full-on in attack on or inside the Bulls’ quarter-final but either lost possession or gave away dumb penalties to let the Bulls off the hook.

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Yet the side can produce a dazzling first half backline try through seven sets of hands and finished off by Phipps, and a brilliant individual Kurtley Beale five-pointer in the second half leaving three Bulls defenders grasping at rarified air.

Which begs the question of how can the Waratahs be so switched on and so switched off within minutes of each?

Little wonder coach Daryl Gibson is sporting more grey hairs every week.

The debits were long, headed by the two penalties and a conversion Bulls captain and goal-kicker Handre Pollard missed but normally would have landed.

Those eight points would have made it 36-21 – a more realistic scoreline.

The 11 penalties the Waratahs gave away were costly, and so too were the 22 missed tackles and 13 turnovers.

And the Waratah scrum was monstered throughout the 80 minutes.

It’s also time to recognise Jake Gordon is the more consistent halfback, so send Phipps out to pasture and blindside flanker Lachlan Swinton is a hot-head who needs to cool down.

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On the credit side, Michael Hooper became the most capped Waratah captain with 57, but his leadership needs more inspiration when his troops are bombing out with elementary mistakes.

Michael Hooper of the Waratahs

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Tom Staniforth deserved his start as Rob Simmons’ lock partner with a strong performance, and it was encouraging to see prop Tom Robertson back in business after a lengthy injury break.

And while Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper aren’t the fastest centre combination in the tournament, they are rock solid in defence, while Beale must inject himself into the backline more often.

All those negatives can easily be turned into positives as the Lions can see next week at Ellis Park.

It’s time for the frustration to end, and the Waratahs to turn in a performance befitting the big bucks they pocket each week.