NSW Waratahs 15 – Queensland Reds 11
As these types of fixtures go, last night’s game was pretty good. Although the scoreboard may not show it, there was a fair bit of attacking rugby played, only to be totally dominated by both team’s brutal defences.
At times even the Tahs got into the spirit of entertainment and attempted to run the ball and construct play – could this be the start of the ugly-duckling turning into the beautiful swan? More than likely no, but at least at times last night they looked like doing something other than a crash ball or kick.
After the match both Phil Waugh and Chris Hickey, lamented the fact that the Tahs were still to play their best rugby. I found this comment strange considering the type of low risk, conservative game plan they have. The Tahs seem to be executing this type of rugby – dominate the set-piece, play field position and tackle the opposition out of the contest – very well and consistently. In the confines of that limited scope, it is hard to see how the Tahs could get much better.
If Hickey and Waugh were alluding to the prospect of the Tahs breaking out of their self-imposed ‘rugby straight jacket’ and really trying to play a more expansive game, then they are kidding themselves. I don’t think the Tahs have the personnel to play such a game, and they are winning, so why even try?
The physical dominance of the Tahs was there for all to see last night; the Reds’ forwards were totally exposed. At times the Reds’ scrum and line-out were as dysfunctional as the Tahs’ backline. The Tahs stepped up the pressure on the Reds’forwards in the second half and the Reds were unable to respond. That was the difference, when the game was there to be won, the Tahs’ forwards won it.
There was a brief uprising by the Reds either side of half time; however this was quickly put down as the relentless Tahs’ forwards rolled on.
The Reds displayed their usual laissez-faire approach but as they tired around the 50 minute mark, the usual high-tempo play was shelved for the less energy sapping option of kicking. It was most noticeable from turn-over ball, both Barnes and Cooper kicked away ball that would have previously been put through the hands.
This approach was at odds not only with the Reds’ style of play to date, but also the fact they were getting totally dominated at the line-out. None more so than the Reds’ decision to opt for a penalty kick to touch in the final minute rather than a quick tap. This was the Reds last chance so it was a strange decision to take a line-out, which was ultimately lost as the final siren sounded.
The Reds continue to spurn scoring chances with poor execution. Once again they seemed to have the better of open play without actually scoring points. It is quite clear, that although the Reds are looking to play a free-flowing game, they lack the skills to turn this style into a winning formula.
During the week, the Reds seemed to imply they were the entertainers, how on earth they think watching endless knock-ons and poor passes is entertaining is beyond me, but I suppose their over-all endeavour should be applauded.
For the Reds, they can already set their sights on next year, as this year’s campaign will yield nothing. It hard to see the Reds rising above about 9th on the table which will be disappointing, as no doubt the team had higher expectations that than at the start of the season.
The Tahs, well, they roll on to Canberra for another Friday night match against last start losers, the Brumbies. Top of the table seems an over-achievement for the Tahs as they haven’t played the type of rugby you would associate with leading the competition. The arguments of them not having played decent teams are trite, they are winning, and, based on their current game-plan – it is hard to see how any team will beat them.