Waratahs lose to Crusaders in final trial




The Waratahs have staged a 2nd-half comeback similar to that from their 2005 Super 12s final loss to lose their final trial 32-30 to the Crusaders in front of a healthy crowd of 17,000 at Aussie Stadium this evening.

It was a night that marked the return to competitive provincial rugby from injury for opposing loose-forwards Wycliff Palu and man-of-the-match Mose Tuiali’i, both big men having outstanding games in attack and defence.

The final scoreline flattered the hosts however, as the inaugural Super 14 favourites demonstrated the poise and precision that former Crusader leaders Marshall, Mehrtens and Hewitt helped establish in recent years.

The crowd were involved in the match early this evening as Carter elected to take a penalty goal in the 2nd minute, quickly securing an early lead however sparking a number of cries from the stands with regard to their interpretation of the spirit of Super 14 trials.

The crowd demonstrated an equality however as Peter Hewat was berated for each of his 3 successful attempts later in the match, however no more than 10 minutes after Carter’s first and only penalty Crusader no.8 Tuiali’i snapped up a loose ball from a lineout on the Waratahs 22 before marching to the line to register the evening’s first five-pointer.

Tuiali’i was certain to secure the All Blacks no.8 jumper last year before injury gave Hurricane Rodney So’olialo the honour, though the former showed tonight that despite his inexperience his speed, strength and skill will help propel the Crusaders to the usual heights in 2006.

Despite a Hewat penalty goal in the 21st minute the Crusaders demonstrated their usual relentlessness for breaking the advantage line, and soon after Ross Filipo was strolling down the short-side to register another 5-pointer for the visitors to send them out to a 15-3 advantage.

Tuiali’i was back in the thick of the action again only 4 minutes later as he sent Aaron Mauger over, and on the stroke of half-time Crusader lock Chris Jack lurking offside secured an intercept to put Leon MacDonald over in the corner to send the visitors to the sheds with a 27-3 advantage.

While Waratah coach Ewen MacKenzie would have been disappointed with the fluency of set-piece play from the first half, he would have been encouraged to see one of the world’s premier locks in Daniel Vickerman get through 30-minutes unscathed on his return from shoulder surgery.

MacKenzie will be less than convinced however with the progress of new recruit Sam Norton-Knight at flyhalf as for the 2nd successive week he has failed to make an impact. The second half saw coaches MacKenzie and Deans make a number of changes, and a glut of early possession and territory for the Waratahs saw Shaun Berne crossing beneath the posts to register the first Waratahs try.

Soon after Waratahs hard-man Wycliff Palu was introduced and with his first touch of the ball he linked with Rocky Elsom after a rampaging run to register the Waratahs 2nd try and put the Waratahs within striking distance at 27-17.

After another Hewat penalty goal Tuiali’i once again stamped his name on this trial opening his side’s lead to 32-20 before Palu was over again after steaming onto a short-ball from newly recruited hooker Tatafu Polota-Nua.

With 15 minutes remaining and the Waratahs trailing 32-27, the home side were able to establish both territory and possession with Hewat kicking then to within 2 points when Wyatt Crockett was yellow-carded for repeated infringements.

The Crusaders line held strong however, and as a late penalty attempt by Hewat from close to the sideline faded across the posts, so did the Waratahs hopes of a miracle comeback victory in front of their home crowd.

The respective coaches will take a number of individual performances away for further scrutiny during the lead-up week to the Super 14 competition, however the point-scoring imbalance throughout the match will likely be assessed as a reflection on the volume of internationals each coach had mobilised at a given time.

The result nor the balance seems indicative of either sides’ impending fortunes, however MacKenzie’s problems at flyhalf still appear to unsolved. On the positive for him however will be Palu’s involvement in the past 2 trials, which will likely see him as the back-up loose forward in coming weeks.

With Lyons, Waugh and Hoiles likely to start for the Waratahs in the opening Super 14 rounds, Elsom will probably find himself spending more time in the air at the lineout and locking the scrum at the set piece. MacKenzie may already be cursing the fact his glut of quality loose forwards doesn’t extend to his inside backs. Deans on the other hand boasts depth all over the park, as is becoming customary at the Crusaders.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.