What did we learn from the Waratahs' defeat?
1. Win it for Australia, Argentina
The Waratahs had control of their own fate but like the Brumbies on Friday night, couldn’t grab it. Their loss to the Chiefs means Sunday morning’s Jaguares vs Highlanders game will determine how many finals spots Australia receives. A Highlanders win would put the New Zealand team eight points clear of their Aussie rivals, meaning only the conference leaders will go through. A Jaguares win keeps things interesting up to the very last game.
2. Nothing stuck for the Tahs
Nothing really stuck for the Waratahs against the Hurricanes, whether it be territory or hand in ball play. The Waratahs have been heavy-handed in their attack throughout the season but opted for more of a field position game early against the Hurricanes. That approach played directly into the plans of the visitors, with Wellington running riot early on. When they did have the ball in hand, though they were overzealous and increasingly frustrated with their mistakes. Their set piece struggled as well, with the lineout a specific weakness that will be a major worry in their final regular season game and through the finals, if they make it that far.
3. Folau smashing down Test centre door
Israel Folau is mounting a near irresistible case to take the Wallabies 13 jersey. Folau took every opportunity he had, including scoring his 10th try just after half-time for NSW in another super game at outside centre. His game came a night after Tevita Kuridrani was very quiet against the Blues.Folau likes to sit squarely on the fence when asked about position preferences but if he gets a gold 13 jersey in August, it will surprise few.
4. Barrett bests Bernard
We could have been watching a Bledisloe preview in the playmaking stakes and it was a very interesting battle between the two flyhalves on Saturday night. Beauden Barrett, who may not even start for the All Blacks, had a superb start to the match, racking up the points for the Hurricanes. Foley’s kicking game leaves a bit to be desired but the two were pivotal for their teams.The Waratahs flyhalf was absolutely battered, with two high tackles leaving him sore and sorry, but he battled on.
5. Get out of the way
There’s just no excuse for midair challenges anymore. Taqele Naiyaravoro was yellow-carded for his challenge on Beauden Barrett, in which the Hurricanes 10 landed on his back. Naiyaravoro knew as soon as play stopped that he was headed to the bin, clearly unable to challenge for the ball. It wasn’t malicious but there’s simply no reason for it. Julian Savea capitalised straight away with a try to put the Hurricanes nine points up in a critical passage.