The Waratahs continued their winning start to 2009 as they eked out a 15-11 victory over derby rivals the Reds on Saturday, but it was far from entertaining.
The Waratahs continued their winning start to 2009 as they eked out a 15-11 victory over rivals the Reds on Saturday, but it was far from entertaining.
Despite their contrasting Super 14 positions of second and tenth pre-game, it could, and has been argued that the Reds are playing the more entertaining rugby.
And with last weekend's confidence-boosting victory over the toothless Cheetahs safely in their pocket, the Reds matched their title-chasing opponents in most facets of play.
However, in a match that was expected to see two different styles collide, the four points were eventually claimed by the more conservative outfit, with the visitors only adding to their winless run in New South Wales.
The game began with two fine immediate touch-finders from the Reds – first from Peter Hynes and then Quade Cooper – pushing them from their own line to within two metres of the 'Tahs' as the visitors set about enhancing their flamboyant tag early on.
But any aspirations they had of upsetting the league position applecart within five minutes was smashed by 101 not-out flank Phil Waugh's umbrella rush tackle on Mark McLinden, which lifted the home crowd to their feet and took the league-convert off his.
What followed saw the Waratahs' back-row at their best, albeit from a Tatafu Polota-Nau overthrow, as the now attacking Waugh snaffled on the loose ball before offloading to Wycliff Palu. From the following phase it was the turn of the tight three to show their worth and that they did with Wallaby prop Benn Robinson sneaking under the posts to take the scores to 7-0.
Up until the end of the first quarter it was all Waratahs with Kurtley Beale adding three points following two penalties from Ben Lucas – centre Charlie Fetoai's lung-busting run from halfway the catalyst for their scores.
However, the home purple patch continued for the next five minutes with the statistics showing the Reds dominating with 88 per cent of possession as they looked to eat away at the lead. And on the back of another three points from Beale, that's what they did with exciting backs Berrick Barnes and McLinden sending Peter Hynes over just seconds before the hooter.
Upon the turnaround, and once again it was the Waratahs who gained the slight upper hand in the opening quarter as they looked to wear down their tiring opponents.
However, within a blink of an eye and largely against the run of play, the half-time lead of 10-11 could have been stretched by the Reds had full-back McLinden managed one extra inch in his reach for the line.
That proved to be one of just three, yes three, exciting moments in what was a dour half of rugby as the Waratahs ground out their fourth straight victory with replacement Timana Tahu pushing the hosts back in front, which was how it remained with Laclan Turner also going close late on.
Man of the match: We're left scratching our heads after a dull 80 minutes of rugby and believe no player even comes close to picking up an accolade in Sydney.
Tries: Robinson, Tahu
Pen: Lucas 2
Waratahs: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (captain), 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Dan Palmer, 18 Chris Thomson, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Timana Tahu.
Reds: 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Charlie Fetoai, 12 Berrick Barnes (c), 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Van Humphries, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Poutasi Luafutu, 20 Will Genia, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Blair Connor.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: James Leckie (Australia), James Scholtens (Australia)
Television match official: Geoff Acton (Australia)
Assessor: Wayne Erickson