What did we learn from the Waratahs' surprise win over the Chiefs?
1. There they Tah
At 2-4, the Waratahs season was circling the drain. Not so anymore. They’ve had setbacks with injury and missed opportunities but they managed to find the right time to pick that up. There is just something about the nucleus of this team, many of whom learned off the departed veterans of 2015 and previous, that oozes confidence. Their scintillating attack was back and they took every chance they had. Beating a Kiwi side had to be the next box to tick for the Waratahs as they vied to hang on to the Australian conference lead and they did that emphatically on Friday night. It’s just a pity they have to wait a month before they play together again, if that’s what they’re going to bring.
2. Waratah Wallabies timing their run
The Waratahs’ win was their most emphatic of the season and one Michael Cheika will have plenty of reason to smile after watching that game. His Wallabies contingent, named in an extended squad on Thursday, all played to a level rarely seen in 2016. Nick Phipps was the most shaky, after coughing up an early try, but the scrumhalf redeemed himself as the game went on. Israel Folau needs a whole talking point to himself, Bernard Foley was calm and collected as usual and Rob Horne was typically consistent in his 100th game. In the forwards, Will Skelton and Wycliff Palu forced the point, Tatafu Polota-Nau was solid. Put in two weeks of an intense Cheika camp and the English might reasonably be a little bit nervous.
Michael Hooper playing rugby from the gods in this game. Slick hands, brilliant lines, great pace. England beware. #WARvCHI— Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) May 27, 2016
3. Folau the freak
The Waratahs’ rule of rugby seems to be ‘give Izzy the ball’. That’s not even speculation, Daryl Gibson has all but said it himself. Few would have anticipated it might have been on the Chiefs’ to-do list as well, though. The Waratahs outside centre read a cutout pass beautifully in the ninth minute, nudging it out of the grasps of Damian McKenzie and streaking away for an 85m try, one of the best of his career. A super step 10 minutes into the second half led to another try, to his fullback successor in Andrew Kellaway. There’s a reason this guy is considered one of the best players in the world and it showed in 212 run metres, three linebreaks and two tries.
4. Tensions high
The Chiefs are heading back to New Zealand and it’s probably a good thing because these trans-Tasman rivals might need to put some distance between them after a fiery clash. A Wycliff Palu yellow card, a missed offside offence from the Chiefs that put Michael Hooper out of the contest sparked a round of push and shove, everything was fierce. So few of these matches have had that spice this year, as Kiwi sides dominated, but the Waratahs made sure they weren’t walked over at Allianz.
5. Palu on the pine?
Wycliff Palu showed everyone why Michael Cheika loves him so much in just under 50 minutes of game time on Friday night. Palu was aggressive and intimidating from the opening whistle, though a yellow card soured his night. He clearly isn’t an 80-minute player anymore, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The 35-year-old could certainly be a last-minute enforcer off the Wallabies bench, though, after a performance like Friday night.