Waratah Spark Fizzles in Blue Downpour
Waratah Spark Fizzles in Blue Downpour
(Trade you some Leaguies for a Second Rower.....)
24 Feb 2003
Waratahs (18) vs. Blues (31)
Let me have a rant first. The video ref has gone too far. The game looked more like a social gathering at times, as the teams stood around sipping tea, waiting for the television match official to ponder a verdict over a pint, on decisions the ref should have made himself. This happened more times than was funny during the match. And he’d obviously had too many of said pints by the time it came to ruling on Mat Rogers’ grounding of the ball in the in-goal. He carried it in I’m pretty sure. Should have been scrum Blues, not that I was complaining.
I bought into the hype a little this year. I always talk the Tahs up, it’s a fan’s job. But this year I was actually going for it a bit. The Waratahs were going to be bloody good, we had half a League team in reserve, including one super-improved wing and all was going to be dandy. Turns out one David Giffen would have been worth more than all of them. Rule number one as a Tahs fan is not to buy into the hype. Be quietly confident of a decent year with a possibility of more, but that’s it. Well, I just sold back out at a loss.
So we come to Friday night in Sydney. There was this wet stuff falling from the sky. It had me pretty nervous and eventually I let myself be talked into watching the game on telly instead of at the ground where I belonged and could get good and soaked (sloshed?). Can’t really complain about the rain, it was falling over much of the state/eastern seaboard apparently and they need it in most places, so no complaining allowed…
The Blues looked the better team from the get go, and used their extremely fast back three with deadly effect all night. They did this despite the slippery conditions and it paid off in spades. In the first half, both of their (Fijian) wingers scored a try apiece, Joe Rokocoko cutting in off his wing to take a good pass and sail in near the posts and Caucaunibuca (why do these guys have to have such bloody hard names to spell?) deciding that he was going to beat three Waratahs defenders on the outside to score in the corner.
At one point early in the game it happened. NSW lost a lineout throw. It was not to be the only such incident of the evening for them. Their lineout has come nowhere in their 9 or so months off. They are still losing them regularly apparently. The good news for them or the bad news for Auckland was that NSW was solid in the scrum, raising a bit of hell with the Aucklanders on occasion.
Tuqiri looked very dangerous the few times he got the ball, running some wicked angles, but Bob Dwyer had a brain explosion when he played McGoldrick on the other wing. He was woeful. Some good work by the Blues to prevent the ball getting wide to Tuqiri, combined with the Tahs disinterest/inability to get the ball out to him, stopped us from seeing more than a glimpse of what he might be capable of. Matt Burke picked himself up a rare yellow card from the video ref that was fair enough, for hammering Justin Collins high with an enveloping tackle. Not sure he actually meant to tackle his head but he definitely got him and got his ten for it. Then there was a scuffle before half-time and Patricio Noriega and Tony Woodcock got to retire from the field for ten minutes as well, again courtesy of the slow video ref. At the break, the scores were 6-15, a scoreline that almost flattered the home side in a lacklustre half.
The half wasn’t all flying wingers though. There was a fair bit of dropped ball due to the wet conditions and between that and the aforementioned video ref overuse debacle, the game spent more of its time not being played, a trend which was set to continue. The Tahs did have one really good passage in the first half where they strung together 17 phases. They didn’t gain too much territory but were starting to stretch the Blues. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending who you are) the passage only ended up in a penalty goal to Burke.
Referee Kaplan had an absolute blinder at one point, telling Mat Dunning to leave the field (he was being replaced) repeatedly until Whitaker (I think) had to inform him that Dunning was off with the faeries and would have to be escorted from the field. This despite the fact he was stumbling around the place like a dribbling fool. Hmm, on second thoughts, maybe Kaplan had no reason to suspect anything was wrong after all. In truth, props need concessions to not knowing what is going on at the best of times, let alone when they’ve had their head banged up a bit.
So, the second half saw more of the same, with the dazed Dunning having to come back on for the binned Noriega to scrummage. This changeover for replacement props for the binned ones wasted yet more time.
Auckland scored the first try of the half from deep within their own territory after the Tahs squandered an attacking raid, Howlett and Caucaunibuca juggling the pill back and forth down the field for Caucaunibuca to go over in the corner.
Then Patricio Noriega went off again, injured this time. With the Tahs having two injured props, the rest of the game was played with uncontested scrums. Auckland may not have minded too much though, the scrums were about the only facet of the game in which they were getting done.
Rico Gear took Rogers high in a tackle that messed him around a bit. The yellow card that did Matt Burke in was absent this time, wasn’t it Mr Kaplan? The Tahs elected for a scrum (one of my personal favourite options near the tryline) and one of the other Waratah new recruits, Morgan Turinui showed he is more useful than that useless McGoldmember (McGoldrick’s name coined during the game for his woeful performance) by getting across the line for a solid Waratahs try.
When McRae scored in the corner shortly afterwards, to bring them closer to Auckland, it seemed that the Waratahs were both picking up their game and were now in with an outside shot of the points. The Blues had other ideas though and Gibson put the idea to the sword, scoring the final try near the posts after a long run to the line. Final score 18-31.
All told, a pretty good performance by the Blues on the night with some negative issues to see to and a definite need for Troy Flavell to go back to boxing practice and learn that he is supposed to be trying to hit the opposition rather than his own teammate Meeuws, saw off a fairly ordinary Waratahs side that only managed to show brief periods of attacking flair and was struggling to contain the Auckland backs all night. Unless they can get their lineout in order, they are in big trouble.
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