Gibson lauds "tough" Waratahs after tenth straight win over Reds

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

UPDATED: Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson praised his team's developing brand of “toughness” after grinding Queensland down to a tenth straight defeat.

In front of 15,861 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Tahs extended the Reds’ misery in the equally historic grudge match by pushing away late in a dour 28-17 victory.

The Reds were their own worst enemies for most of the night but somehow still in the game with 15 minutes left, trailing only 21-17 after a Sefa Naivalu try.

But the Waratahs responded with a try to Alex Newsome, and despite a mountain of possession in the NSW red-zone in the second-half, Queensland couldn’t manage to find any more points.

Their own errors were costly but NSW’s defence was also as tough as a three-day old steak. On sheer volume, it had to be - the Waratahs ended the game with just 32 per cent of possession - but the hosts made a whopping 191 tackles.

The majority were made by the NSW forward pack, who answered criticism of their lightweight status with an aggressive night at the office.

"I am particularly proud of the boys the way we ground that game out,” Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said.

"It was a real grinding win for us: 32 per cent of the ball, 170-odd tackles. We showed some real character there and withstood some real pressure in the second half. The Reds had some dominant amount of ball in our 22 and we held them out, so that was very pleasing.

"The Reds are a tough side. They came here with a much vaunted scrum, the lineout and the drive, big bodies, ball carry. And I thought our boys stood up tonight, to that.

"We won it a different way. While we want to see the ball fly sideline to sideline, occasionally it is good to win that way.

"That is what we have been focussed on, turning ourselves into a far tougher team. And we showed that tonight.”

The Reds had legitimate complaints in the weak SCG surface de-powering one of their main weapons - the scrum - as it constantly chopped up into huge divots.

But coach Brad Thorn and captain Samu Kerevi also bemoaned a lack of pressure and clinical execution when hammering the Waratahs’ line for so long in the second half.

"NSW was slowing our breakdown well and we would have an error time after time and you just can’t win games of footy like that,” Thorn said.

"When we looked after the ball and had possession and patience and worked with it, we got good results but that wasn’t very often. 

"I wouldn’t say it was the most attractive a game but sometimes you have to win ugly and NSW won, I felt, ugly tonight. We fell short again. It was disappointing."

Thorn said after tight losses to the Highlanders and Crusaders, the Reds took a step backwards at the SCG and Kerevi concurred.

"I have hundred per cent belief in the team we can win games, we just need to stay engaged and mentally switched on the whole time. We just keep lapsing in and out,” Kerevi said.

"Like Thorny said, I felt like we took a step back and fell into old habits that we had last year and that’s not what we want.”

The Reds had the first chance to score when Bryce Hegarty had a kickable penalty in the first minute but pulled it.

Bernard Foley made no such mistake a few minutes later when the Tahs went on hard on the attack but ended up taking an easy three.

Only a few minutes after that the Reds’ discipline again let them down in front of their sticks and Foley pocketed another three.

The Waratahs scrum looked under pressure early but not as much as the sandy SCG turf, which cut up badly every time there was a scrum.

Huge chunks had to be repaired all over the field throughout the game.

Impressive rookie Isaac Lucas saved a try when Jake Gordon almost scored but was bundled into touch in the 18th minute.

It didn’t matter because only a minutes later the hosts finally scored, when Ned Hanigan barged over the top of Duncan Paia’aua to score under the sticks.

The Reds’ mistakes were killing them but they finally got sustained possession in the NSW half in the 26th minute, and after a strong Izack Rodda carry, Samu Kerevi picked up and cruised through the middle of the ruck to score.

Foley added another penalty near halftime to extend the NSW lead but Queensland responded superbly, when Kerevi offloaded to Chris Feauai-Sautia on the right sideline and the winger raced 40 metres to score.

The Tahs held a 16-12 halftime lead but almost immediately extended it after the break, when a miscued Moses Sorovi kick saw Beale give Curtis Rona some room.

Rona bumped through Sorovi and raced into the right hand corner to score and stretch the hosts’ lead to 21-12.

The Reds pressured NSW for much of the second half but continually coughed up possession  when in the Waratahs’ red zone.

That finally changed when a Reds counter attack from halfway saw Hegarty feather through a well-weighted grubber behind the NSW line, and Sefa Naivalu race through, regather and score.

The Waratahs answered soon after, though, when a sustained period of crafted attack saw Gordon hold up a pass nicely for the reserve Alex Newsome to surge through and score under the posts.

RESULT

Waratahs 28

Tries: Hanigan, Rona, Newsome

Cons: Foley 2

Pens: Foley 3

Reds 17

Tries: Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia, Naivalu

Cons: Hegarty