Tahs tick boxes in final trial
The Waratahs will enter the Super Rugby season high on confidence following their impressive 19-16 win over the Highlanders on Friday.
The Waratahs will enter the Super Rugby season high on confidence following their impressive 19-16 win over the Highlanders at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium on Friday.
The Tahs, who refused to kick penalties at goal, were full of running and outscored their New Zealand counterparts by three tries to one.
Coach Michael Cheika described it as a good hit-out for his side, who concluded their pre-season match practice with two wins from three trial matches.
“It was exactly what we needed, hard at the breakdown, there was some good and bad but, all in all, I’m happy with the physicality and attention to detail at the ruck,” he said.
Rookie wing Alofa Alofa was one of several players who impressed and made a case for a starting berth in the season opener against the Western Force at Allianz Stadium next weekend.
Showing his dazzling footwork, he beat close to five players, taking the ball 40 metres downfield before offloading and it was only great defence by the Highlanders that saved a five-pointer.
“For the second week in a row, he’s delivered,” enthused Cheika.
Even more eye-catching was Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, who proved a deadly combination.
Rob Horne started at inside centre but Beale, back after a controversial stint at the Melbourne Rebels, featured there for the majority of the match in a dual playmaking role.
Touching on the pair’s potential as a partnership, Foley said: “Hopefully a lot of potential, hopefully we’ve got 18 games to play together this year and build on it.
“Each week is going to be something different, and there’s going to be great challenges for us.
“There’s great No.12s in the side with Rob Horne, Jono Lance, even Adam Ashley-Cooper can play there.
“There is a lot of competition at No.10 and No.12, and throughout the whole backline which is pretty exciting.”
In more good news for the Sydney side, Cam Crawford, returning from shoulder surgery, came through the match unscathed and was unlucky not to score when he was bundled into touch along with the corner post.
“He’ll definitely play a lot of football this year, he’s got to learn to play for 80 minutes,” said Cheika.
There were two points of concern for Cheika – utility back Jonno Lance, who injured his ribs in the warm up and didn’t play, and the team’s finishing.
“We broke the line at least 10 times but failed to turn those opportunities into points,” said Cheika.