The Waratahs stole a win at the death in Sydney, over the Stormers.
What are we talking about after the 34-27 win?
1. Waratahs show something
North of the NSW-QLD border, Reds coach Brad Thorn has been pleading for his side to ‘show something’ ahead of 2018. You wouldn’t blame Tahs fans for asking the same, and they delivered on that front on Saturday. The Waratahs did their very best to dismiss their preseason critics in a win that came ultimately against the odds. Some gritty defence, with the possession all in the Stormers’ favour early, helped them stay in the game, and they were able to run out the game, a sign of their improved fitness. There’s still a huge mountain to climb - their scrum was dominated by the South Africans and they made some basic errors - but something showed through at Allianz and that’s a big first step.
2. Wow, Folau
Maybe Israel Folau should take every Spring Tour off, if he returns to the next season in the touch he found on Saturday night. Though that’s a comment made in jest, there’s no doubting Folau hasn’t missed a beat despite an extended break. Folau made an impact with almost every possession he had, culminating in a spectacular try in the 18th minute to kickstart the Waratahs’ night.
3. Knocking down the clarity in cards
It appeared at times in 2017 that any semblance of an intercept attempt that didn’t come off would be deemed a deliberate knock on and a yellow card. Not so in Sydney on Saturday night, with Stormers players let off for what appeared to be three deliberate knock downs. Two of those - through captain Siya Kolisi and winger Dillyn Leyds- were deep in the Waratahs’ attack but were simply penalties. Waratahs captain Michael Hooper admitted he was confused by the rules, seeking clarification from referee Angus Gardner during the match. Though he was satisfied with the explanations given, the officiating seemed out of step with some of the stricter decisions around the rule in the past year.
4. Defence takes a step
The Waratahs ahd one of their worst defensive years on record in 2017 and they stood up to the test in round one. There was desperation across the park for the Waratahs throughout the game, something that the side has admitted they lacked last year. Halfback Jake Gordon led the way in cover defence, certainly doing his chances of cementing a starting halfback spot no harm at all. In the end the Waratahs missed just 16 tackles, making 105, stats that say a lot about the mentality of this side in 2018.
5. Forward pack lacks punch
The Waratahs pack came into round one looking vulnerable and in their first major test, against a powerful South African outfit, they were unravelled. There were some positives early on, but as the game ticked on, the Waratahs pack were slowly pushed backwards. A yellow card for lock Rob Simmons put them a man down in the forwards, making their task even harder. Even when he returned, the Stormers were well on top and they continued to dominate the scrums. The pressure will only intensify on the NSW pack in the next fortnight, as they face the Sharks in Durban and Jaguares in Buenos Aires and they're going to need to turn things around immediately.