Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Tahs… it did. The Canes put them to the sword at the SFS in front of a paltry crowd of 13,372.
While the home side had their moments they never really looked like scoring, and were let down by some shithouse handling in the opposition 22. The Canes feasted on these errors and scored three tries in the last 20 minutes to take 5 points in a 33-12 win.
The first half was a rather uninspiring affair, with both sides trading penalty goals for the first 20. There were dropped balls, aimless kicks and not much to write home about generally. The Tahs looked to be getting on top at 9-6 after 28, with Mitchell, Timani and Barnes all making good linebreaks. However it was the Canes who would score first, through Julian Savea after the Tahs coughed up the ball on their own 22. A few phases later and Savea was over in the corner. Barrett converted to take the score to 13-9, which would be the case until half time.
The second half was almost as depressing as the first. The Tahs had good moments but handling errors inside the Canes 22 cost them dearly. Barnes opened the half with a penalty, but that was where the joy would pretty much end for the Tahs. They sent wave after wave of runners into the Canes defence, but too often passes went to ground just when the break had been made. And the Canes punished them dearly- firstly through Motu Matu’u (after some slick handling from Taylor, Barrett and Vito) and then Conrad Smith (after Berrick Barnes charged out of the defensive line like a peanut looking for the intercept). Reserve scrummy Tusi Pisi put the icing on the cake in the 79th to secure the bonus point, taking advantage of some lazy blindside defence. 33-12. What a drubbing.
Despite the depressing result there were three bright sparks I thought- the performances of Palu, TPN and Dennis. All three got through plenty of work, and were the only three that really looked like breaking the Canes line. As for the rest… argh. Pretorius was cumbersome, Barnes was ponderous, and the outside men rarely saw the ball. The other forwards were generally anonymous in what was a messy slog of a game.
For the Canes I was impressed by Beauden Barrett, Victor Vito, Jack Lam and TJ Perenara. It was a great 15-man effort from a team clearly brimming with confidence and self-belief. Which brings me back to the Tahs…
The real talking point lies not in the performance of individuals but overall habits that have become all too common in 2012- no enthusiasm on kick-chase, skill errors at crucial times, and worst of all pathetic goal-line defence. What ever happened to the Tahs being the competition leaders in defence? Now it seems all you have to do is hold onto the ball for a couple of phases and the gap will open. Where is the hunger to chase that kick, or get to that breakdown, or back up in support of a player in space?
These are the big questions the Tahs need to address as they now look to 2013. Something has to change, you would think.