The Waratahs have won a scrappy victory over the Cheetahs in Sydney, with two early tries securing a 21-6 win.
The home side will be ruing a number of errors in the Cheetahs 22, which ultimately cost them a try-scoring bonus point.
The opening minutes presented the crowd with some big questions, such as ‘what are we doing here?’, ‘what is the purpose of this, in the grand scheme of things?’, and ‘what if this was just all part of a cosmic simulation, with an infinite amount of parallel universes, playing out an infinite number of matches?’. And in that time, there was some rugby played… but I can’t remember much of it.
Fred Zeilinga opened the scoring for the Cheetahs, then Bernard Foley hit back with two penalties to the locals, but no-one really looked like scoring. A dominant Tahs scrum was the only real talking point. There was a spark in the 22nd minute after a great chip-and-chase from halfback Tian Meyer, but what seemed like a certain try was saved by a sensational covering tackle from Andrew Kellaway.
The Tahs scored the game’s first try just a few minutes later. A lovely Kurtley Beale kick pinned the Cheetahs deep in their own half, and a mistake gave the locals a golden chance to strike. They made no mistake, with Nick Phipps throwing a nice offload off the ground to Foley, who found Reece Robinson in space out wide. He did the job, using what little space he had to score in the corner.
The Cheetahs hit back with a penalty soonafter, closing the margin to just five. But the Waratahs were getting on top, and had their second try of the night thanks to Foley, who cut through some patchy Cheetahs defence to score next to the posts. The Tahs looked the better side, and went to the break 18-6 ahead.
The second half began in the same manner as the first… and if they were like me the crowd drifted off to consider the changing global political landscape. Could Donald Trump really be President? It’s possible. The guy clearly has appeal as a plain-speaking, non-politician type of guy, but surely he can’t get the broad appeal across genders and racial groups you need to win a Presidential election. But Hillary has plenty of skeletons in her closet, and doesn’t have the advantage of being a ‘clean skin’ as Obama wa- ah the Tahs just won another scrum penalty! Nice.
Somewhere in their Foley kicked another penalty goal, but with 20 minutes left the game looked pretty safe for the home side, up by 15. They continued to push for a try, with Robinson shelling a golden opportunity, dropping a ball stone cold over the line after a delicious Beale grubber found acres of space.
Nothing much happened for the remainder of the game… until the last play. Michael Hooper made a break close to the ruck, and offloaded to Dean Mumm who took the ball into the Cheetahs 22. Israel Folau scored from the ensuing phase, and while the try was awarded the TMO ruled Hooper’s earlier pass was forward. Game over, with the Tahs taking the win but without a bonus point.
It was an unmemorable game, but at least the Tahs got the win. Both sides tried to throw it around, but there was a lot of dropped ball and the game never got into any sort of rhythm. The Cheetahs are that sort of team I suppose, they drag you down to their level. Having lost the last three games against the Cheetahs in Sydney, I think Tahs fans will take a win, no matter how ugly.
The Waratahs would be annoyed not to get the BP, it was there for the taking but their execution in the Cheetahs half was scrappy. Could be very crucial in their bid for a finals berth.
That Tahs scrum. Wow. OK so clearly the Cheetahs aren’t the most formidable opponents at the set piece, but for this Tahs pack to do that to ANYONE is notable, after the issues they faced early in the season. Tom Robertson may be the best prospect we have discovered across all Aussie teams this year.
Andrew Kellaway continues to improve at fullback, and seems to have cemented himself in the role long-term. His try-saver on Meyer was a thing of beauty, and he looks good when he gets the ball in space.
Israel Folau’s defence at 13 has improved significantly in the three matches since he was shown up by Tevita Kuridrani and the Brumbies. Visibly growing in confidence, which is nice to see.
The Game Changer
No game changer. Tahs always the better team, and the match was never really in doubt, even if the scoreline wasn’t a total blowout.
The G&GR MOTM
The Waratah victory was built on the set piece, so I’m giving it to Tatafu Polota-Nau. Got through plenty of work in tight, and made a number of big tackles. Honourable mentions to Kurtley Beale, Paddy Ryan, Andrew Kellaway and Michael Hooper.
Will Skelton left the field with a shoulder injury in the first half. The good form of Israel Folau at 13 would please Michael Cheika, but other than that I can’t see anything of note from a Wallaby standpoint.
Score & Scorers
[one_half last=”no”] Waratahs 21
Tries: Robinson, Foley
Penalties: Foley 2
[one_half last=”yes”] Cheetahs 6
Penalties: Zeilinga 2