Waratahs vs Rebels: Five things we learned
The Waratahs are still alive in Super Rugby after a 50-23 win over the Rebels.
What did we learn from another entertaining derby?
1. Discipline the Waratahs Achilles heel
When even a team’s captain is clearly frustrated by ill-discipline, you know it’s reaching breaking point. Yet that was the situation Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper found himself in on Sunday afternoon. Six penalties in a row handed Tolu Latu a yellow card but that didn’t seem to stem the bleeding. Hooper articulated his own exasperation to referee Angus Gardner, saying, “I’m trying my best.”, while Gardner responded, “I’m not going to back off but I don’t want to be the dominant figure in this game.” The Waratahs were far from the most-penalised team in the competition coming into this game but they have a habit of coughing up points at the worst times.
2. Hooper leads by example
Michael Hooper was frustrated early on, as many Waratahs fans have been all year, but no supporter could ever question the sky blue skipper. Again Hooper led the way for his team and ultimately scored the match-sealing try in the 70th minute. That try added on to 156 run metres, and a lazy 10 tackles and three turnovers in the big win Though it was a forward pass out of his hands that might have kick-started the Waratahs’ momentum shift, it was but one controversial blip on an otherwise typically dominant performance from the NSW and Wallabies No. 7.
3. Rebels can’t buy a trick
Excuse is a dirty word in sport but the Rebels might be one of the few anomalies when it comes to having let-offs to lean on. Already having battled a growing injury list this season, they lost their best player and stand-in skipper Reece Hodge in just the second minute to a head knock. An injury to youngster Jack Maddocks will also give them some grief, but they’ll just be hoping for the best scenario after a season of injury blow after injury blow. The positive is they fought hard without Hodge on the field and showed some of the potential they have in their squad, with a double to youngster Jonah Placid proof of that.
4. Izzy reinvigorated
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Israel Folau has been in some of what of a form slump in recent months but the past two games might just be the spark he needs to get back on track .Two doubles in as many games have taken Folau back to his best weapon – finishing. The Waratahs will be hoping he can carry that form on away from home.
5. Kiwi challenge still to come
Australian derbies have been entertaining this season and Sunday’s was no different but the real test for the Waratahs comes next week, as they look to try and put a hit on the Brumbies. With just four points separating the Waratahs from the conference lead, a win against the Highlanders could see them in front by the end of next weekend. A two-week tour of New Zealand will define their season, though that won’t be anything new for them. As for the Rebels, they’ll be looking for pride against the undefeated Crusaders at AAMI Park next Saturday night. Good luck.