Review waratahs v highlanders, the drought has broken. – green and gold rugby k gas cylinder

As it turned out, the Tahs ran on to Allianz ready to play and came away with an emphatic 41-12 victory, showing they are the real deal when they play what’s in front of them, to go six points clear on the Australian conference ladder. The Match:

The Waratahs had the ascendency from the opening whistle, with a steal from the first lineout and a resultant backline charge upfield to deep inside the Highlanders territory. A few minutes and another steal later, Foley put the home side in front with a penalty goal. Soon after, a fumble by Sopoaga from a Beale kick gave the Warathas a scoring opportunity, an opportunity they fully capitalised on with Naiyarovoro crashing over in the corner.

In the 19th minute ‘Highlanders winger Tevita Nebura went up for a high ball and was red carded for what appeared to be a deliberate kick to the face of Cam Clark on the way down. Things only got worse for the visitors shortly after when Aaron Smith got 10 minutes on the pine for a deliberate knockdown.

Although the Waratahs did benefit from the two man advantage with another Naiyaravoro try – his fourth double this season – it could be argued that they didn’t really capitalise on this advantage, through some poor decision making and fundamental errors, and with Smith back on the field the half time score was 15-0 to the ‘Tahs. Second Half:

The Waratahs returned to the field after the break looking supremely confident and were able to score quickly with an overlap to an in-form Israel Folau. The Highlanders scored almost immediately through Elliot Dixon and the conversion saw the ‘Tahs holding on to a 22-7 lead. Folau was next to score again, the beneficiary of some slick ball handling in what will go down as one of the best tries by the Waratahs this season. Again, however, the Highlanders responded almost immediately with a try of their own to Ash Dixon. 29-12.

Congratulations to every Waratahs and Australian rugby fan on a very well deserved win. The darkness (excuse the pun) has been lifted and a new dawn unfolds. I trust the celebrations were enjoyable, sleep last night was easier and there is a spring in the step to Sunday activities today.

Here in my humble are some simple facts. Australian rugby is at it’s best when it is confident. Confidence that emerges from well merited self-belief in preparation, skills, conditioning and mental toughness. Self-belief is fuelled by winning and winning fuels self-belief. Australian rugby has not experienced enough winning so self-belief has not been there. A Waratahs side with self-belief after a gutsy performance in Christchurch last weekend took it one step further last night and thrashed a good Highlanders team who were never allowed into the contest. Now there is confidence, self-belief & winning!!

I hope last night restores some belief in Super Rugby and questions this notion of Australia retreating to some domestic only competition. Ask those Waratahs players last night how it felt to put a very good performance on a good Kiwi side? How much are they now looking forward to playing a good Chiefs side in Hamilton next weekend? There will be an excitement to training this week that any professional sportsman will tell you is addictive. Big games against big teams. It’s what the great one’s play for.

Hopefully this also marks a change in the tone of commentary. A whole lot more positive chat about skills displayed, intelligent decision making, clever execution, good tries scored and a nice coaching job on a side that looked shattered 2 weeks ago after a home loss to the Blues. Hopefully it buries for a while the ref bashing and negative mindset about all things Rugby Down Under which all felt needless. We have a great sport. We have a unique competition and if/when Australia starts winning again people will love the matches against the best of South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Japan. Stick that to the NRL, AFL, A-League and whoever else is looking with envy.

For 722 days I had pondered this very day and i how i would feel / respond. Would it be spontaneous joy, unbridled passion, enthusiasm, an adrenalin surge, would it be like many a lazy Sunday in my youth, lying in bed with a pretty young thing, physically relaxed and enjoyng the fruits of labour just competed ??

Lets put it in context. In the same time we have had a change of President, been on the cusp of WWIII a handful of times, started a trade war, seen China act like China, had SSM legalised, had Izzy preach (i swear Iz, it was only once and i didnt swallow. Prison was a confronting time for me, slightly arousing, but mainly confusing) – so why so long to beat 15 ordinary men by another group of 15 ordinary men ??

The Blues game was frustrating, The Crusaders game – old news, the Reds v Canes a Blueprint. The Kilt Wearers – the Tah’s just seemed free of anxiety and the baggage of doubt – maybe that was the learnings from the previous two where they should have won, that they actually CAN win.

I saw some great rugby, but my resisidng memory from last night was smiles on faces, a group of men who just seemed free (free of doubt, free of anxiety, free of the ghosts of 722 days of sufferring) to express themselves, KNOWING they could beat a Kiwi side and then executing accordingly. Silky skills, fitness, belief and an ability to play unstructured Rugby – they beat the Landers at their own game and it was a thing of beauty.