Waratahs 11 Chiefs 7
On the one hand Chris Hickey can say the Waratahs have played two fancied kiwi sides in the last two weeks, for two wins. On the other, were 60 minutes of inexplicable, rudderless rugby from NSW.
It started with pushed passes in the back end of the first half, transitioned to midfield crash ball into traffic being the only attacking option, and culminated with midfield bombs going sideways. At times I wondered how many men the Tahs had on the field, because there didn’t seem to be anyone outside Beale after the second phase. A scratch team would surely have had more shape.
What saved NSW, other than a moment of slick skill from Beale in the 17th minute when he put a perfect kick-pass into Tahu for a try, was how god awful the Chiefs were. Both their line-out and scrums were disaster zones and consequently Stephen Donald might as well have stayed at home. Sivivatu tried in vain to kick start something (his chip kicks actually work) and Masaga had a shocker.
On the bright side for NSW was Sam Norton-Knight at full-back. Like Gerrard for the Brumbies, his positional kicking was first rate and his positional nouse impressive – man of the match for me. It was also positive to see Cliffy Palu back. He may have been a little one dimensional, but he also made over 100 metres and was his usual juggernaut self.
But it wouldn’t be the Tahs if they didn’t entice and infuriate at the same time. The first 20 minutes had me thinking under Hickey they’d taken a big step forward. The rest, especially the 20% place kicking rate, had me right back in the worst performances of 2008.
One good thing though – I found another candidate for The World Mullet XV.
Waratahs: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Timana Tahu, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Dan Palmer, 18 Chris Thomson, 19 Scott Fava, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Carter.
Chiefs: 15 Mike Delany, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben May, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 James McGougan, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 James Wilson.