Waratahs vs Lions: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs went down to the Lions in Sydney on Friday night.

What are we talking about after that?

1. Waratahs have work to do

The Waratahs have beaten all comers in the Australian Super Rugby conference but when it comes to the big overseas hitters, there’s more to do. Their first scoreless match in Super Rugby, biggest loss to the Lions ever and their first loss to the Lions in Sydney. It was a rude wake-up call for the Waratahs, ahead of their bye and a run of four straight matches against Kiwi opposition. If they can’t improve on Friday night’s effort against the Lions, then a strong start to the year will quickly become meaningless.

2. Waratahs’ spark dimmed

Even Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson admitted his side looked slow at times against the Lions. It’s a far cry from the relatively zippy high-tempo NSW that has been running out games far better than in recent seasons. This was not the NSW we saw tonight - one of the competition’s best attacking sides this year failed to score at all for the first time ever and they were on the back foot the whole day.

3. Back row reshuffle hurts

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson opted to throw Ned Hanigan into six and bench Will Miller for the Lions match, and they seemed to lack mobility without Miler there. Though that was not the only thing the Waratahs were lacking and they talked about it down post-match, you couldn’t help but feel that his injection may have just been a handy one, rather than opting for taller timber.

4. Set piece found out

The Waratahs found some confidence in their set piece on Friday night, with some crucial scrum penalties, but that positivity was unravelled swiftly at lineout time, with four lineouts lost on their throw. It’s an issue that was pinpointed as a possible weakness in the preseason but they appeared to be punching above their weight. The Lions saw to it that they were put back in their division on Friday night, a tough lesson for the home team.

5. Lions not going away

They’ve made the Super Rugby final the past two seasons and the Lions started their month-long tour of Australia and New Zealand in the perfect way with their win over the Waratahs. Their first win in Sydney and the first time they have held the Waratahs scoreless. They’ll be tested in New Zealand but they’re going to be up among the top echelon of teams.