Super W: Waratahs made to work for win over gritty Rebels

Super W
by Emma Greenwood

The result came as no surprise but the Rebels' resistance in their 33-3 loss to the Waratahs shows they will be no Super W pushovers this season.

After having 112 unanswered points put on them by Queensland in the opening round last year and finishing at the bottom of the Super W ladder, the Rebels played nothing like minnows against the defending premiers.

The Waratahs notched five tries in their win and were the dominant force but they had to work hard for their win against a Rebels side that showed they would be no easybeats this season.

While they conceded two penalty tries and have plenty of work to do in all facets of the set piece, there were not the gaping holes in defence that blighted the Rebels play last year.

The Waratahs though showed they remain the team to beat this year, dominating the set piece and making the most of any opportunity in open space.

Captain Grace Hamilton lamented lost opportunities but said the match had been a chance for her team to blow the cobwebs out.

"We can obviously do better," Hamilton said after handling errors in the conditions spoiled the Waratahs' chances to make the most of their set-piece dominance.

'It was quite dewy out on the field and we've just got to play to our strengths.

"We've got to recombine and do what works best for us, so if that ball's not coming fast, we need to play to those conditions. We got up today but we've got a lot of learning to do and it's a big road ahead."

The Tahs created plenty of problems when they took the ball to the line, something Hamilton said they had talked about before the game.

"Our discipline in the first half was really good, I think it slipped away at the end - and the thing we wanted to work on was urgency and discipline, so that first half was the the way we want to move forward and we've got to build that for 80 minutes."

Rebels captain Melanie Kawa said Melbourne knew the key to the match was trying to match the defending champions physically in the opening stages.

"We knew that if we could hold them in that opening 15 minutes and get really physical, because they're the biggest side in the comp, it would give us a bit of confidence and we wanted that front-foot ball," Kawa said.

"We got it but we just couldn't capitalise on it."

Drizzling rain at kick-off caused greasy conditions throughout the match and plenty of dropped ball from both teams.

After a scrappy opening five minutes, the Waratahs made the most of their chances, winger Maya Stewart racing over for a pair of tries within 10 minutes, with signs looking ominous for the Rebels.

Tahs centre Katrina Barker showed good vision to pick off a Rebels pass, before shovelling the intercepted pill on to Stewart who raced over for her first try.

And when she was put into space just minutes later by a neat ball from scrumhalf Ili Batibasaga, she showed plenty of pace to score again.

The Rebels had defended outstandingly in the opening stages and took their opportunity when it came, Georgia Cormick slotting a penalty from 37m out in the wet to create Super W history as the first home team to score against the Waratahs.

The starch in the Rebels hits continued and they blunted further Waratahs raids through pilfered ball and holding players up over the line.

But they were unable to capitalise on their own opportunities, with the Waratahs' speed at the defensive line and their own haste to push passes in difficult conditions cruelling their chances.

The issues that plagued the Rebels scrum also continued in the first half and the Tahs were awarded a penalty try as they marched the Melbourne pack backward.

Kawa conceded her team would need to work on their set piece moving forward.

"Their lineout is exceptional, probably the best in the comp and we're going to have to look at getting a little bit of deception going on there because they're really powerful.

"And our set piece, our scrum, I felt like we had it there and it just wasn't clicking.We've got a lot to work on but it's only round one and we've got time."

The game continued in the same vein in the second half, with the Rebels defence holding firm but the pack unable to deal with the might of the Waratahs front row.

Rebels centre Ashleigh Walker - arguably best on ground for her side - was able to get her knee under the ball just as Batibasaga attempted to ground it early in the second half but the Rebels were again marched backwards and conceded a second penalty try.

Again the floodgates looked as though they could open for the champions but the Rebels' defence held until the 79th minute when Stewart notched her hat-trick, finishing a great team try.

"She's speedy," Hamilton said of the winger. She was nervous coming into today but I said she had to back her ability and she did today and I'm really proud of her for that."



Tries: Stewart 3, penalty try 2

Cons: Piliae 2


Pens: Cormick