SIMON BORCHARDT watched the Waratahs move back into the top six on the combined log with a 29-12 win against the Lions.
Until John Mitchell’s men produce two good back-to-back performances any talk of them having turned the corner will be premature. They took a lot of heart from their victory against a poor Brumbies team in Canberra last week but failed to replicate that performance against an average Waratahs outfit in Sydney. Sadly, average is still too good for these Lions.
The Waratahs received plenty of flak for their ‘boring’ style of play at a fans’ forum earlier this week, and their response was a try in the second minute of the game. Luke Burgess got ruck ball away quickly to Kurtley Beale, who found Lachie Turner on his outside and then regained possession to score in the right-hand corner.
The Lions suffered a setback when Lionel Mapoe left the field on a stretcher after taking a heavy knock during an attempted tackle, but levelled the scores following an attack that began inside Tahs’ territory and ended with Jaco Taute chasing down a grubber from Butch James.
However, that was as good as it got for the visitors, as they conceded three tries in a nightmare 10-minute period. Quick hands saw Sosene Anesi dive over in the left-hand corner, before a cross-kick from Berrick Barnes was collected by Beale, who sent Cross away. Deon van Rensburg was yellow-carded for putting a knee into an opponent’s head, and his absence was exploited when Burgess’s kick into space was collected by Anesi, who scored the bonus-point try.
The Tahs struck again just before the break when Barnes’s grubber was pounced on by replacement wing Tom Kingston. Beale had missed three of his previous four conversion attempts, but made no mistake this time to give his side a 29-5 lead.
The less said about the second half, the better. It was scrappy, to be polite, with the Tahs guilty of putting too much boot to ball and botching the few try-scoring opportunities that came their way (Ben Mowen lost possession in the tackle as he attempted to ground the ball).
Mitchell injected some life into the listless Lions by bringing on Elton Jantjies in the 50th minute and moving James to inside centre, and a late try from another replacement, Dylan des Fountain, gave the scoreline some respectability. But the reality is that if the Lions took a step forward in Canberra last week, they took one back in Sydney.