Waratahs vs Rebels: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

The Waratahs showed there is life after Israel Folau by winning a big game at the end of a tough week.

What else are we talking about?

LIFE AFTER IZZY

Lose the guy who has scored the most tries in Super Rugby ever and it’s fair to question if your team can cope - let alone win - without him.

The Waratahs did that on the SCG.

Kurtley Beale stepped smoothly into the no.15 shirt and did it so comfortably, there’s a good argument to be made it’s his best position anyway. Out of the front line in terms of defence and organisational duty, Beale has more time to survey time and space from the back.

Beale kicked a lot - as per the Waratahs’ gameplan - but also skipped nicely through a gap on counter-attack to show he still has wheels.

Perhaps most telling was the fact the Rebels looked to kick high to him often, to test a perceived frailty. And Beale didn’t drop one high ball.

It was a performance that Michael Cheika, sitting up in the SCG stands, would have taken plenty from.

PENALTY PULLERS

The Rebels’ discipline collapsed in the second half, and just had occured against the Lions, the cumulative weight of successive penalties against the Melburnians led to them giving up a match-winning lead.

At one point the Rebels gave away seven penalties on the bounce and then lost a man to the bin.

Is that a concern for Dave Wessels? Yes, and no.

He doesn’t mind giving away penalties, as it turns out. But just not that many.

"Going into the game we were second on the log and the first most penalised team is the Crusaders,” Wessels said. 

"One of the things is we want to push the boundaries of how we are going to play. We want to play with tempo and be super aggressive both sides of the ball, sometimes you get that a bit wrong and we did that tonight.”

JUST AIN'T CRICKET

What to make of the SCG as a home venue for the Waratahs? The demolition of Allianz Stadium next door meant NSW had to find some new home turf, and due to their long contract with the SCG Trust, a state-wide roadshow had to include the famous cricket venue.

The first game drew headlines for all the wrong reasons when then the turf ripped up, and though the second game was a win over the Crusaders, the distance away from the field and the large size of the venue made modest crowds feel even smaller.

Easter holidays made the crowd of 10,714 look, and feel, even smaller again.

The Waratahs play the remainder of their home games at the new Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, and the response from fans will be interesting.

If the venue is as good as everyone is tipping - with great facilities and intimacy - then the question will be whether the Waratahs decide to play even more out there next year.

The strongly vocal NSW members got a better view with a side-on angle at the SCG but perhaps they’ll enjoy the Bankwest Stadium experience so much they’ll even travel west for games.

Perhaps.

BOMBING RUN 

There was a school of thought the absence of Izzy Folau might see the end of the contestable kick for NSW.

Yeah, nah.

It was high ball city from both teams at the SCG and while you may not like it, you’d better get used to it.

A slippery deck and the intense pressure of the occasion meant box kicks from Will Genia and Bernard Foley were all the rage. 

There were more bombs than a Datsun 180 convention.

It was risk aversion 101 but the tactic actually worked well for both - which is why they kept coming, and sorry to tell you this, they will keep coming at the Rugby World Cup, too.

Contestable kicks were a tactic heavily used by all the Six Nations sides and South Africa love a box kick, too.

The ability to play out of your half and build pressure may be boring but it works unfortunately that’s where world rugby is at the moment. 

The Wallabies haven’t been in that space for a few years and often been burned by their over-ambition. Let’s see where Michael Cheika’s head is at come July.

PICK OF THE BUNCH

For all the talk of a Quade Cooper versus Bernard Foley showdown - (Foley points victory based on all his second half, well, points) - there were plenty of other interesting names throwing their hands high in the air for Michael Cheika to see from the stands with his binoculars.

Rebels men shone in the first half: Isi Naisarani had many strong runs, and Anaru Rangi continued to make his presence felt. Reece Hodge also looks to working back into form.

In the second half, the likes of Karmichael Hunt, Michael Wells and Harry Johnson-Holmes had some nice involvements. Old soldiers like Rob Simmons and Sekope Kepu also turned in solid shifts.