I didn’t get to watch the Waratahs v Reds game on Saturday night but when I got home I was surprised by the score.
I wasn’t surprised by a Waratahs win but I had expected a closer match and I found it hard to understand how the Reds could only score six points. Having now watched the game it’s very easy to understand – the Reds looked pedestrian in attack and every time they tried something the Waratahs defence easily covered them.
It was an outstanding display by the Waratahs and after two rounds they look the team to beat in the competition. After the first round I thought the Blues and Crusaders were ahead of the pack but I was probably discounting the Tahs performance against the Rebels. Now after two weeks of dominant rugby they have certainly established their credentials.
Their attack was enterprising with the interchanges between the forwards and backs a highlight. However, for me it was the dominant work in defence at the breakdown that set the platform.
In defence, Rob Horne and Tatafu Polota-Nau were exceptional but more importantly the defensive structure looked really good and the introduction of John Muggleton as defence coach has obviously worked well. The Tahs gave the Reds no room to move as they combined great line speed and physicality in the tackle to smash the Reds backwards. When Muggleton was the defence coach for the Wallabies he used a passive drift defence system to give the opposition room to run until they ran out of room. This worked well at the time and was copied by many teams but eventually teams worked out how to counter that system. Recently defensive systems in rugby have tended to be more aggressive and Muggleton has also moved with the times, in fact I’m sure many teams will be trying to copy the way the Tahs defended against the Reds so maybe he’s back ahead of the game again.
At the breakdown the Tahs were so much better than the Reds. They were aggressive, accurate and effective every time they chose to commit to the breakdown. Ben Mowen and Dave Dennis were tremendous but the loss of Phil Waugh is a real blow for the Tahs. The Reds on the other hand struggled to get numbers into the breakdown to produce quick ball. James Horwill played well whilst he was on the field but he looked like a lock playing as a back rower. Ed Quirk doesn’t look like a #7 to me either and I think the difference Robinson made when he came on can’t be ignored. In my opinion, it’s time for the Reds to select players in their specialist positions and I think they need some more speed in the back row. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a back row of Shatz or Quirk at #6, Higgobotham or Leroy at #8 and Robinson at #7.
Given the score line you’d expect that the Tahs had the majority of possession. However the Reds had 56% of possession and took the balls into 99 rucks and mauls compared to 61 for the Tahs. It shows that the Tahs don’t need the ball to attack – they’re attacking through defence.
The following video shows some of the Tahs good work in defence and at the breakdown.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjU4Gv73CDA[/youtube]