Waratahs vs Reds: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

The Waratahs ground down the Reds on a controversial SCG pitch.

What are we talking about from the Super Rugby grudge match?

1. Surface tension

There was once a time when playing surface issues at the SCG were limited to players coming off covered head to toe in mud.

On the evidence of the Waratahs’ first game there in 2019, the issues could be way more serious this year should remedial work not be done. And fast.

The SCG surface ripped up repeatedly when put under pressure at scrum time, and even under the strain of vigorous rucks or mauls. A few tackles even churned up the field.

Softened up due to rain during the day, big holes of sand emerged under the long studs of Taniela Tupou and co, and groundsmen had to come on several times to put the divots back in and stamp down the surface.

Play was even held up in the second half while one patch was repaired.

The question is, though, what can actually can be done in two weeks to ensure it doesn’t happen again? 

The Waratahs are back at the venue in a fortnight, against the Crusaders. Expect this to be an issue of much discussion before then.

2. Eyes on Isaac

Samu Kerevi made a bold claim recently he reckons 19-year-old Isaac Lucas is the best player in his family, and given the Lucas clan is no ordinary family, that’s a big call.

Ben Lucas and Matt Lucas have played Super Rugby and Tom Lucas has represented his country in sevens.

But Isaac is well on his way to proving Kerevi right after an assured first run-on start at no.15 for Queensland.

Showing no signs of fear or being overawed, Lucas had some nice touches in attack and defence. He pulled off a try-saving tackle on Jake Gordon early and looked good when bring the ball forward on counter.

Best Lucas yet? The jury is still out, but it was a good opening argument.

4. Ugly footy still winning footy

Brad Thorn called NSW’s win “ugly” and that was almost a compliment compared to social media reaction about the SCG clash. 

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as far as Daryl Gibson was concerned, that “ugly” win in a low-level spectacle may as well have been a supermodel.

Yes, it had bugger all highlights. Yes the slipperiness and intensity saw tonnes of errors. 

But the Waratahs also found a steel in their defence that Gibson has been longing for for a few years now.

The Waratahs made 191 tackles in the game, compared to the Reds’ 61.

Michael Hooper made 23 tackles and rookie prop Harry Johnson-Holmes wasn’t far off, with 19. 

Time and again, NSW not only stopped the Reds at the ad-line but pushed them backwards. Many of those Reds mistakes came via NSW hits.

It is easy to forget the Waratahs' defence averaged 35 points conceded per game in 2017. 

Gibson sure hasn’t forgotten, and this year his team is down to a per game average of just a tick of over 22. 

For a coach, there is only one word that matters in the two-word phrase "win ugly". And it isn't ugly.

5. Keeping Kerevi a must

 The drums are beating loudly that Samu Kerevi is set to take the cash on offer in Japan next year. 

His performance in Sydney showed one thing: Queensland should pay the dude whatever he is asking.

Kerevi was again outstanding for the Reds, and almost singlehandedly kept Queensland in the fight against the Waratahs. He scored one try, laid on another and was a constant  threat.

Leadership seems to be suiting the big centre, too. He is not only setting the example on the field, he is saying all the right things off it too.

Rugby Australia will need to come to the party as well, money-wise, of course. But the Reds can ill afford to lose Kerevi.

HERITAGE KIT IS FIRE

Every year sporting teams try to modernise their jerseys to appeal more to the paying public. 

But seeing the Waratahs and the Reds in their original kits - or versions of them - at the SCG showed sometimes you can’t improve on the first draft.

The Waratahs heritage kit, with the basic blue design and the white colour, is an absolute ripper. Last year it wasn’t put on sale but this year fans can get their hands on one.

Queensland's maroon kit - same deal. Looked good then, looks good now. End-of-year review not needed.