So I went down to Aussie Stadium aka the SFS. ---Begin Rant--- Bloody Aussie Home Loans. You know someday someone will come up with a marketing strategy where they buy the naming rights to a stadium and advertise the fact that while they hold the rights the real name of the place is NOT going to be messed with. ---End Rant---
After consuming some memory/impartiality enhancement fluid during the second half of the curtain raiser between Uni and Easts, it was time for the game. In a fit of rare wisdom, I did my shouting for the beers at this early stage and hence didn’t have to line up at half-time in the main game. Was good to note that Sydney crowds haven't changed and most of them turned up some 15 minutes or so after kick-off in the main game. Idiots.
The Cats got a typically generous Sydney reception and the Waratahs excited everyone in the crowd with their slinky new blue outfits, then we were off and running.
The first half was characterised by reasonably even possession and the 'Tahs dominating the territory. Bloody hell their backline was moving fast and running very dangerous angles, with Mat Rogers chiming in as though he had never left rugby in the first place. Forget Wendell Sailor. Mat Rogers is the really big League recruit of the year on current form. His first try, the second of the match was beautiful, accelerating out wide to sail over the line untouched by the men marking him.
Its just a pity they couldn't hold onto the ball. Very rusty looking attempts at some very polished moves by the 'Tahs saw a lot of lost possession, and much of it inside the opposition half or even 22. Having said that, they played very positively and were hunting for tries from the very first moment, taking lineouts from penalties that were within kicking distance regularly, and more importantly sometimes converting those decisions. It almost scares me to think what they might have done to the Cats had they held onto the ball more often, or pushed that last pass a fraction less often…
Matthew Burke's kicking is terrible at the moment to say the least, converting only three of the seven tries scored by his team, with some misses from kicks that he would normally put over in his sleep. By contrast his general play at outside centre is great this year and he is still a fantastic player, like him or not.
The Cats were better in the second half of the game and managed both some tries and to more effectively keep the Waratahs out, both of their try line and their territory in general. They had the edge in the scrums for the game, as they should have had too with their monstrous forward pack. They lost too many of their own lineouts and need to do some improving in that area. In general play the 'Tahs forwards gave at least as good as they got, posting two pushover tries, for which two pretty boy backs claimed the credit. As for their backline, most of the time they seemed to be going through the motions with the ball rather than really taking on the opposition defence. They naturally had their moments of brilliance, but they were very few against a Waratahs side that blew them off the park despite struggling to readjust to local time and conditions after their tour of South Africa.
No indeed, the Cats are in for some real trouble if they keep playing like that this year. It may unfortunately be left solely to the Stormers to carry South African hopes in 2002. After two one point losses having been recorded by the Stormers so far this year they are still managing to hold onto fifth spot. Currently they have my vote for unluckiest team of 2002. If they can continue on this form and just start winning the close ones instead of losing by one they are still in with a good shot.
A comment I saw somewhere in the papers last week kept coming to mind during the game. The Waratahs don’t seem to have the best forward pack or the best backline in the Super 12, but at the moment they look to have very sharp examples of both and as such a very well balanced side. Please let it be so and not just crap opposition. With four more home games and three more away games, surely they can crack the three more wins for a probable berth….
As a cheeky aside to Geeves, did you see Growden and Kimber’s Aussie S12 side of the week? Nine 'Tahs and 1 Red. Admittedly the Reds were up against the Crusaders and the Crusaders are playing bloody good football, even though Merhtens' kicking last night reminded me a bit of Matt Burke's the night before. (There you are BT, I slipped that one in for you)