GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Waratahs’ 30-6 bonus-point win over the Reds in Sydney on Saturday.
It’s still early in the season, but you have to question the Reds’ form this year as they have been struggling to find that magic that made them play-off contenders in 2010. The main problem lies with Quade Cooper – when their chief playmaker is restricted, they become predictable on attack. This is what the Tahs did well in their victory as it provided them with the platform to control proceedings.
The Tahs enjoyed a strong start, dominating the Reds in the first quarter by exposing their defensive frailties and sniping the gaps with good interplay between the backs. The hosts also impressed on defence and by targeting Cooper, the visitors struggled to build momentum because of their lack of variety on attack.
The Reds heavies were no better up front and they were dealt a further blow when skipper and talisman James Horwill limped off midway through the first stanza with an ankle injury. With the Tahs pack having the upper hand at the breakdown, the Reds leaked penalties and this allowed flyhalf Berrick Barnes to kick his team into an early 6-0 lead.
Fullback Kurtley Beale, who played an influential role in the win as he rotated with Barnes in the flyhalf channel regularly, caught the Reds napping as his quick penalty tap saw wing Drew Micthell dive in at the corner. Cooper opened the scoring for the Reds with a three-pointer, but they fell further behind when flanker Dave Dennis bashed over after rushing through from a sneaky line-out move. Cooper made it 16-6 as he slotted his second penalty for the final action of the first half.
The Tahs continued to hold the ascendancy after the break and they ran in two more tries through wing Lachie Turner and replacement loosehead prop Benn Robinson to secure the four-try bonus point. If it wasn’t for a lack of composure and poor handling at the death, the Tahs could’ve crossed the chalk several times more.
The Reds were stale in the second stanza and failed to add to their tally. This performance will be a huge concern for the Queenslanders and head coach Ewen McKenzie will need to go back to the drawing before their clash against the Brumbies in a key Aussie derby next weekend. If they don’t rectify their problems soon, the Reds will be remembered as one-hit wonders.
Waratahs 30(16) – Tries: Drew Mitchell, Dave Dennis, Lachie Turner, Benn Robinson. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (2). Penalties: Berrick Barnes (2)
Reds 6(6) – Penalties: Quade Cooper (2).