Waratahs taking positives from trial loss against Highlanders

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson saw plenty of positives for NSW despite the Waratahs kicking off their season with a 59-38 trial defeat against the Highlanders in New Zealand.

Missing a dozen rested Wallabies and injured players, the youthful Tahs turned in a solid showing to lead the Highlanders by 31-14 midway through the 90-minute encounter in Alexandra.

The home side swept home to register a win but a hat-trick to Lalakai Foketi, a solid NSW debut for Karmichael Hunt and the emergence of promising hooker Andrew Tuala were among the many good signs for Gibson post-game.

“It was a typical pre-season encounter and trial. There were a lot of points scored,” Gibson said.

There was a fairly strong wind and we had that for the first two thirds and the last third the Highlanders had a positive period and ran away with it.

“Overall there were some real positives out of it. It was good that Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael (Hunt) and Cam Clark all got to play good minutes after not playing at all during the NRC, and did well.

“And number of our younger players, like Will Harris straight out of school, and Pat Tafa, Will Harrison, Ben Donaldson, they all got their first taste.”

After only joining the Waratahs last week, Hunt showed his years of experience by making an assured maiden appearance in sky blue.

“Karmichael was excellent, he carried the ball very strongly and was very strong on defence. It was his first game for a whole and good for him to get some minutes,” Gibson said.

The big question mark for the Waratahs this year will be finding a replacement for injured loosehead prop Tom Robertson, and veteran back-up Paddy Ryan.

Harry Johnson-Holmes and Shambeckler Vui, along with Cody Walker, held up well against the Highlanders, in Gibson’s eyes.

“All our young props went well. The scrum was fairly even tonight. Again, it was good to gain that experience by playing in these matches,” he said.

LeRoux Roets also made an impactful debut and Gibson also singled out Tuala, the young Norths hooker, as someone who may have forced his way into his plans for future Tahs’ trials.

“He was one guy who really put his hand up. A guy who came up from club footy and showed he can do really well,” Gibson said.

There was no injuries to come out of the trial.

The Waratahs play the Brumbies in Goulburn on Thursday night and Gibson said Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jack Dempsey and Adam Ashley-Cooper will all get time.