Waratahs v Highlanders: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs are through to the Super Rugby semi-finals after clinching a famous victory over the Highlanders.

What are we talking about after that 30-23 win?

1. Jekyll and Hyde a Waratahs winner

The Waratahs are the kings of Jekyll and Hyde and they provided that on Saturday night. For the first 40 it looked like they were going to be blown off the park by a dominant Dunedin side. And yet, they walked away the winners after a 21-point scoring spree that spanned 10 minutes. If they can stretch their second half effort into 80 minutes, this team can definitely contend for a title.

2. Card the chance they needed

Sometimes you’ve just got to take the opportunities given to you and the Waratahs did exactly that when Waisake Naholo was sent off in the 52nd minute. A man up, NSW piled on three consecutive tries, turned things around and ultimately nabbed an unlikely win. It’s a situation they’ve been in before, but this was the most convincing display they’ve shown of grasping that opportunity.

3. Champion Tahs watch on

There were a couple of familiar faces sitting in what is usually the Waratahs coaching box on Saturday night. Retired Waratahs Dean Mumm and Rob Horne were watching on as their former teammates made it through to the final four, accompanied for a lot of the match by NSW’s injured skipper Michael Hooper. Horne has only recently returned to Australia after he was forced into retirement because of a nerve injury that left him paralysed in his right arm. Horne was a critical part of the Waratahs’ 2014 title run and he will have gotten plenty of joy out of seeing many of his good mates progress.

4. Tahs’ grit gets them through

Defence has been a glaring issue for the Waratahs in recent weeks but it was their second-half grit that put them over the line in the end against the Highlanders.. A missed tackle from Curtis Rona on Lima Sopoaga opened the chance for their first score in an error-riddled first 40 but they managed to flip that on its head in the second half, keeping the Highlanders scoreless and hort of the line in a period when they were down a man themselves. It was a display  Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has been waiting for. “As much as we’re lauded for our attack, defence won us the game tonight,” he said.

5. Latu making an impact

Tolu Latu is pressing his claims for a Waratahs start after another super effort against the Highlanders. Currently, he and Damien Fitzpatrick are splitting games 50/50 but it’s hard not to notice the impact he has when he comes on in the back half of games. Positive signs for the Waratahs and the Wallabies if his form continues in this vein.