The Waratahs beat the Reds 26-13 in what was one of the dullest Super 14 matches of the season - a match that showed exactly why these two teams are second last and last on the standings.
One wonders if players enjoy playing in a match like this. One wonders if coaches enjoy coaching teams that play like this in a match like this - so seemingly joylessly. It certainly is not much fun watching a match as drab as this, the ditch-water dullness relieved by just four lighter moments.
The Reds dominated possession in the first half without looking like doing a creative thing with the ball they used. Afterwards the Waratahs captain Adam Freier praised his side for their aggressive defence in the first half which, he believed, tapped the energy from the Reds.
The light moment of the half came when a Waratahs attack seemed to have petered out on the left touch-line where a tackle/heap occurred. It looked to be going nowhere till impish Josh Valentine, got the ball and like the knave of hearts stole it right away, dashing down the touch-line for a try in the corner - which Peter Hewat converted. That made the score 16-6 at half-time.
That try was the light of the first half.
There were two light moments in the second half, the first a flash of creative genius from the dull Reds, created by two former league players. Berrick Barnes chipped and Clinton Schifcofske chased. He snatched the ball from under hesitant Hewat's nose, broke free of Freier's attempt to hang onto his coattails and scored under the posts. He converted to make the score 19-13.
That's how it stayed for 25 minutes. On their left the Reds threw into a line-out. They threw deep but James Horwill could not control the ball. His hand diverted it and burly Wycliff Palu stretched and caught it. He ran and then took a pass and ran some more down the touch-line before turning the ball infield to Beau Robinson, who scored the try, which Hewat again converted from far out. That made the final score 26-13.
The last light moment happened after the match - the smile on enthusiastic Adam Freier's face when interviewed. Victory has not come often for the friendly man whose heart is neither small nor invisible.
For the rest there was not a lot of fun. The scrums were a confounded mess to start with. You can't get much life into a game when scrums fall down over and over. There were 20 scrums which produced nine resets, five free kicks and four penalties. It makes having scrums a waste of time. It also produced a yellow card for the Reds loosehead Tama Tuirirangi who plodded off to sit on the touch-line for ten minutes. At one stage the Waratahs had four successive scrums five metres from the Reds line without producing a try, not even when the Reds were down to seven forwards. They did not score a point in the ten minutes that Tuirirangi was absent.
There was not a lot of fun in the kicking either, except for Barnes's try-bearing chip. Most of the kicking was simply hoofing the ball somewhere downfield.
The tackling was the best feature of the match, though most of it was undemanding.
The scoring not mentioned was made up of kicks by either Hewat or Schifcofske with Hewat usually ahead of Schifcofske.
The match started with two teams looking jittery, which affected their handling, but in the end the Waratahs deserved to win the Bob Templeton Cup because they were more creative and composed.
Man of the Match: Rocky Elsom was better than all the rest on attack and defence, in the tackle and at the tackle. And he nearly produced a try for Lachlan Turner when he set the wing running from a turn-over.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Valentine, Beau Robinson
Cons: Hewat 2
Pens: Hewat 3
For the Reds:
Pens: Schifcofske 2
Yellow card: Tama Tuirirangi (Reds, 58 - repeated offenses, collapsed scrums)
Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Morgan Turinui (v-c), 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 David Lyons, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier (c), 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Kurtley Beale, 22 Sam Harris.
Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Andrew Walker, 13 Ben Tune, 12 Andrew Brown, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Nic Berry, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Hugh McMeniman, 3 David Te Moana, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Tama Tuirirangi
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Herman Hunt, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Will Genia, 21 Lloyd Johansson, 22 Quade Cooper
Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Brett Bowden (Australia), George Ayoub (Australia)
Television match official: Bradley Wahl (Australia)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)