Hit And Miss For Waratahs In Final Trial

Lopeti Timani scores for the Waratahs.

Lopeti Timani scores for the Waratahs. Photos: Gregg Seaton

by Brendan Bradford –

A chorus of boos echoed around Allianz Stadium as Tom Taylor lined-up his match-winning penalty for the Crusaders against the Waratahs in their trial match on Thursday night. The vocal crowd of 6,824 had every right to feel aggrieved too. Having declined numerous kickable first-half penalties in favour of five-pointers, the Waratahs clawed their way into the lead with two tries against a staunch Crusaders defence after trailing 13-0 at the break but couldn’t maintain their slim advantage as the determined Crusaders outfit – winless in their first two trials – kicked for the victory with nine minutes remaining on the clock.

The Waratahs made true on their promise to run the ball but wayward passes, even more dropped ball and a stout Crusaders defence cruelled many attacking opportunities until fresh legs came on in the second half.

Israel Folau steps inside to evade Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean

Israel Folau steps inside to evade Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean

“We dropped a stack of ball, let’s get that out of the way,” said Waratahs coach Michael Cheika in a frank press-conference after the match.

“One of the big things we want to do is be very clear about how we’re going to play, so even though we got ourselves into a bit of trouble because we dropped the ball, we were able to just hang in there and eventually it started coming good and were able to get into the game.”

Ironically, for all the preseason hype about the potent backline, it was two replacement forwards – Lopeti Timani and Paddy Ryan – who burrowed over the tryline from close range to give the Tahs a sniff inside the final quarter. If anything, the Waratahs were perhaps too eager to get the ball wide without first setting up the platform with the forwards.

Man-of-the-Match Israel Folau had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the get go as he made one of his many line-breaks with his first touch of the ball after barely 30 seconds. Folau’s acceleration, step and strength will be a major asset to the Tahs in midfield even if – like Sonny-Bill Williams before him – he attempted a few too many off-loads in the tackle.

“He looked dangerous when he got the ball and had a few counter-attacks but I think we’ve gotta get the ball to him a bit more on our set piece,” said Cheika, who added that he still had a bit to learn in terms of positional play but that he was communicating well with his wingers and never got caught out on defence.

Waratahs flyhalf Ben Volavola clears his line.

Waratahs flyhalf Ben Volavola clears his line.

After a rocky first couple of minutes that involved getting bumped off by a charging Robbie Fruean, rookie flyhalf Ben Volavola grew in confidence in his first Super Rugby experience and said the challenge of playing one of the competition’s best sides set him in good stead for the up-coming season.

“It was a great learning experience, especially in that first half, I was pretty nervous but in the second half, the boys settled in and made it easy,” said Volavola after the match.

“I think everyone saw that first (Robbie Fruean) run, I just got belted, but it was a good taste. I think I was fortunate to get that early in the game, that just settled me in and helped me brace myself for other collisions.”

Volavola took great confidence in the way he marshalled the side against the best playmaker in the world in Dan Carter and believes he’s ready to take on the Reds next weekend if Berrick Barnes and Bernard Foley aren’t fit.

Although they had plenty of opportunities to win the game with the boot, Cheika backed his side’s decision not to take the three point option, understanding that trial matches are just that: trials.

“We want to win, but I think you see that by the way we decided not to take the penalty kicks for goal that we understand the balance of what we want to get out of the practise matches as well,” he said.


error: Content is protected !!