The Waratahs went down in a heartbreaker at Brookvale Oval against the Hurricanes.
But there was no shortage of sub-plots and interesting elements to discuss. So what are we talking about after round one?
BIG GAME HUNTER
It has been said if you took away Karmichael Hunt’s off-field issues, he’d have been playing 12 for the Wallabies for the last year and a half. After his rock-solid debut for the Waratahs against the Canes – following only a month’s training – you can see the merit in that argument.
Much like his fellow Queensland discards Quade Cooper and James Slipper a night earlier, Hunt was very strong; defensively and offensively. After trying too hard early, Hunt settled and his hits began to stick. And with the ball he found metres post contact on every carry.
Here’s a fearless tip: having recruited Hunt to plug gaps and come off the bench, Daryl Gibson is now thinking about how to fit Beale and Hunt in the same starting backline.
Brookvale Oval isn’t exactly turning out to be a field of dreams for the Waratahs against Kiwi teams – they lost 50-47 after the siren to the Highlanders in a 2017 trial, 24-21 to the Blues last year and now 20-19 against the Hurricanes.
But don’t let that fool you, because the Waratahs players love the joint. And why not?
Another 17,000-strong full-house had the intimate northern beaches venue buzzing and yet again gave Super Rugby officials a huge pointer: play more surburban games.
Sure, the sad truth is these surburban jaunts actually cost NSW Rugby money (big contracts at big stadiums are bigger revenue) but a great night at Brookie is hard to beat for fans, kids and players – and that right there is the game.
The apparently sketchy surface? No dramas, said players.
The Waratahs rookie front rowers came up big time in winning a penalty at the end of the game. But it can’t be overlooked the same combo gave up a penalty that led to the go-ahead Hurricanes try only minutes earlier.
So while there is clearly huge promise in Rory O’Connor and Chris Talakai, the learning curve will be steep and potentially costly, too.
Scrums will be a white knuck-ride for the first two or three months.
TOO MANY HAIR-PULLERS
Big names are not making big plays for the Waratahs. And this is not intended to be a shot at Bernard Foley.
Indeed, there is something unfair about a goal-kicker taking all the blame for a loss given a dozen mistakes by a dozen other blokes in the same attacking zones probably cost the team points too, albeit more indirectly and with far less obvious blame.
No, there just seems to be a few Waratahs players (with enough Test experience and global frequent flyer points to be now far more clinical) who often give up hair-pulling errors or penalties at exactly the wrong times. Lost lineouts, missed tackles, bone-headed penalties – the usual coach killers. As long as they keep happening, success will be that much more elusive.
Sounds like a MAGA hat wearer but it is, in fact, the goal of the Waratahs this year. This season, they've said, is all about improving their defence.
Only a few years ago NSW gave up a record high 35 points per game in the 2017 season, and last year they conceded over 4 tries per game.
The goal this year is to go under 40 tries for the year, and concede under 20 points per game. They cut their try conceded mark by 50 per cent, and landed on that 20 point mark. It was a loss, sure, but keep Kiwi teams to 20 points often enough and you’ll win a fair share of those games.