‘It was a pretty empty feeling’: Waratahs’ brutal reaction after narrow Rebels win

Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 9:38 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Waratahs coach Darren Coleman and captain Jed Holloway spoke after their match against the Rebels.

For a team that hadn't won back-to-back games in almost 19 months, you wouldn't have known it from the Waratahs' reaction when the siren sounded at the SCG.

The hosts were forced to grind out the 24-19 win over the winless Rebels, inviting them back into the contest after a dominant first half.

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Whilst the win showed the growth the side has undertaken, finding ways to win games they would've admittedly lost last year, it still left an 'empty' feeling inside their dressing rooms.

“Pretty much straight away when ‘Harro’(Will Harrison) kicked the ball out, it was a pretty empty feeling straight away,” forwards coach Pauli Taumoepeau said to reporters.

“It wasn’t a euphoric feeling and then you go into a review and think ‘actually we played pretty well’, it was instant, it was almost as if DC had to get us up to sing the song.

“What this group has done, we’ve moved past just getting a win, that was it for a very long time and I think we’ve moved past that given we’ve seen evidence of what the group is able to do and now it’s about it executing.

“It’s a healthy step for the boys but I think being a past player now, you’ve got to enjoy those wins because when it’s over, it’s over. One of the things they’ll miss is being in the change rooms a bit sore after a win. (But) I kind of like that’s where the boys are at the moment. I like that’s the mindset.”

“After the game, it didn’t feel like a win,” prop Angus Bell added. “We left a lot of points out there and we didn’t play to the best of our ability or our potential as a team. We felt like we took a step backwards in that aspect.

“We’re still happy with the win. Last year, we probably could’ve lost that game so we’re happy with the result but the process that we had in our performance wasn’t good enough. Getting a win like that is a good sign. Winning is a habit and we’re trying to make it one.”

Whilst the attack struggled at times, the defence remained strong, holding out a rampant Rebels outfit in the second half to ultimately secure the win.

For Taumoepeau, this was the shining light from the performance, even conceding at times he struggled to think how they could stop them from scoring.

“Whilst things with the ball didn’t go our way through a lack of execution and Rebels pressure, I thought the boys did really well in defence.

“The stuff ‘Gilly’(Jason Gilmore) is doing in defence is outstanding and it’s the easiest way to put ‘Tah tough’ into motion is with our defence.

“Even our maul defence for that try we stopped, as the maul coach I’m thinking ‘man, I’m not sure if we’ve got this.' It seems there’s been enough habit change and shifts under what DC and Gilly have done in defence, we’re able to rely on that when nothing else works because usually that’s the first to go.

“I think our defence stood up and for that to happen when we were a little bit flat, it says a lot about this group and how far we’ve shifted.”

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The Waratahs will be sweating on the fitness of Geoff Cridge (concussion) and Angus Bell (back spasm) after they were forced from the field early in the win.

They are already expected to be without Ben Donaldson (calf) for the next couple of weeks, with Bell hopeful of being fit for Saturday's clash with the Reds despite rumours floating around he will be rested.

“It just tightened up during the game so they thought the best move was to keep me off but I’m all good, ready to go," Bell said.

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