Kickoff was at the proper time of 7:35pm, after the debacle a couple of weeks ago where they started at 7:05pm. Sydney's skies looked ominous, but she refused to open up on her State team's parade. A dismal crowd of only 23 000 showed up to watch the much-improved NSW side take on the Bulls, and though it looked suspiciously more than that to this Sydney Football Stadium regular, it was still disappointing.
Matt Burke missed a sitter of a penalty right at the start and the match went into a period of limbo for about 20 minutes, with neither team scoring.
NSW looked quick and hard in defense and attack, getting to every breakdown, pushing hard over the advantage line and swinging it wide to good effect. A lot of credit must go to the back rowers, who once again excelled. The Bulls looked OK early on, but just didn't have the class or pace to match it or even try to match it for long. I truly don't know why as they were supposed to be much improved this year.
Going into the second quarter and Matt Burke started electing for attacking lineouts rather than easy penalty opportunities. This must be part of the 'Tahs new agressive attitude and its none too soon in my book. This, combined with the 'Tahs driving maul, which has been used to great effect by them this year and is something that has been missing from the game in general for too long, had a lot to do with the Waratahs first two tries to Whitaker and Burke, although the Whitaker one was a bit dubious.
In the second half, Brendon Williams showed a bit of the Breyton Paulse after gathering an opposition kick to steam down the wing for a try. It was about here that Victor Matfield broke the NSW line, chipped over Matt Burke's head and regathered for the Bulls' only score of the evening (apart from the conversion of the try, naturally). A great try and appreciated by the crowd who could applaud it for what it was, knowing there was little probability of a comeback.
Then the floodgates really opened. Two tries to Sam Payne, one to each of Luke Inman and Scott Staniforth. Too much injury time was being taken by the teams, and I didn't really pay attention to who was to blame, as the brain was going soft with beer, but it slowed the game down quite a bit near the end. Good games to Inman, Staniforth, Edmonds (wonders will never cease), Payne, the back row especially and fairly much the entire team, as the scoreline may suggest.
The Bulls by contrast need to do some serious thinking to get back on track if they expect to do well this season. I don't know, perhaps their walk up the Harbour Bridge earlier in the week took a bit out of them. It's a pity to see a side do so poorly, though it might as well be against the 'Tahs.... In contrast, NSW look to be adjusting to the new laws and required refereing styles, while the Bulls looked a bit lost in last year.
Manny Edmonds is out for six weeks (knee) and the Waratahs will have to use another five eighth in South Africa. The good news for them is that Dunning may be back as early as the Sharks game, but Cameron Blades is certainly no slouch either. It was also good to see big Tom Bowman getting some time on the weekend. If the confidence of the side infuses him, the Wallaby-level player in Bowman may re-emerge.
The SA leg of NSW's Super 12 2001 starts next week against the Cats and will be a real test of both team's finals chances. Fortunately for the Baby 'Tahs, they have one extremely experienced head when it comes to touring in their coach, and guru extraordinare, Bob Dwyer.