Waratahs vs Highlanders: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs took a 41-12 win over the Highlanders.

What are we talking about after that clash?

1. It’s over. Finally

It’s been nearly two years since any Australian Super Rugby team last beat a New Zealand Super Rugby side, and the number can finally reset. The Waratahs have come agonisingly close to beating a Kiwi side in the past two weeks, but they desperately needed this victory. The roar of the fans at Allianz on Saturday night was a hark to how much the spectators needed it too. Though this far from solves Australian rugby’s problems, it erases a footnote that has become an underlying narrative in the past two seasons.

2. Referee sees sense in Sydney, but knock downs still an issue.

Last week, the Waratahs were left to rue two major refereeing howlers. This weekend, it was a different story, with the whistle. In the 17th minute, Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura was red-carded for kicking his opposite winger, Cam Clark, clean in the face. It took some extra replays from FOX and some loud appealing from the crowd before it was all replayed, but referee Brenton Pickerill went to the TMO and the result was a red card. Three minutes later, Aaron Smith was off after a deliberate knock down. Things didn’t go all their way, but they made the decisions irrelevant in the end anyway. There were a few potential knock down decisions in the game, that seemed to only muddy the interpretation. Both the Waratahs and Highlanders were unclear about the officiating after thae game, with something needing to be done.

3. Clark a tough cookie

Cam Clark showed he had heart when he made a try-saver against the Blues, but he showed he was made of really tough stuff in an ugly incident on Saturday night. Clark was cleaned up by the boot of Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura as the latter came down from a high ball. Nabura was red-carded but Clark was straight back up and into the action.

4.Bench proves credentials

The Waratahs showed a full 80-minute performance against the Highlanders, and that was as much about their bench as it was their starters. They kept the intensity up as the minutes ticked over and created more opportunities to score.

5. Next week another test

Saturday night’s win should be a matter of one down, plenty to go, as the Waratahs face another Kiwi match, against the Chiefs. The Chiefs will be on their way back from a South Africa tour for the clash, and it could be another opportunity for the Waratahs. If this is not the beginning of a larger shift in Australian results, then its importance diminishes.