Summary – Who could blame you if you don’t want to read the whole thing!! There’s a lot to report when you take notes during the game.
A one-sided game played in fair conditions dominated by the Waratahs, who again showed that they have any number of advanced rugby skills but do not know how to simply hold onto the ball. Somewhat spiteful, it saw a yellow card to Brendan Cannon for punching and a couple of other semi-ugly incidents. Fortunately Matt Burke found the kicking boots he lost a number of weeks ago and put in a reasonable kicking performance.
Some good early scoring from the Waratahs putting on three tries put the Sharks right onto the back foot, a situation they did not recover from. There was a large barren patch in the middle of the game for half an hour, where scoring was somewhat scarce and both teams seemed to lose the plot a bit. This ended with a couple more tries to the Waratahs and a couple to the Sharks in the latter stages of the game. All in all a good win for the home side to complete a schelacking of the South African sides. They should nonetheless still be worried about their continuity and finishing ability with so many butchered opportunities. This combined with a couple of ugly incidents that should not be happening should concern the Waratahs in the coming weeks. They will not get so many chances against the better sides, especially if all their players join Jono West on suspension. As for the Sharks, well they just look pretty dismal all round.
So onto the full report…..
1st Half – Kick off to Burke. Some good early signs for the Waratahs with them looking fairly sharp with the ball and in defence. Jono West manages to mistake a Shark’s head in the ruck for the ball but is not penalised for it. After being down in Sharks territory, Staniforth scored a try in the right corner after four minutes. Matt Burke converts it from the right touchline and the score is 7-0.
6.00 – Brendan Cannon takes exception to being bound to while standing off the back of a ruck and throws a stupid punch. Gets the yellow card he deserves for being so stupid in front of the ref and departs for ten. The Sharks convert the resulting penalty opportunity and the score is 7-3.
8:00 – About a century after play is called up for an infringement (at least 5 seconds or so anyway), Smit puts a shoulder into Staniforth and knocks him over. Staniforth does a reasonable Hollywood job but you still aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing and Smit should have received more of a bollocking than he did. No cards though, don’t get me wrong. Burke takes a good penalty for it though and the score is 10-3.
10:00 – Burke makes a 40m gain on a pinpoint kick to the line and this fan is convinced Matty has once again found his kicking boots. Followed by Whitaker making a tremendous break and sending the ball through the hands for a Nathan Grey try. The easy conversion hits the post and I curse my optimism about Burke. 15-3.
15.00 – Penalty against the Sharks for interfering in the lineout. Converted by Burke. 18-3.
21.00 – The Sharks manage to butcher a top try. From a great driving maul and some good movement through the hands, a desperate tackle from Rogers on the Sharks right corner forces a knock on. The best Sharks raid in the game to that point. A bit of spite is starting to seep into the game, with some liberal rucking and general niggle creeping in. Could be to do with the fact the ‘Tahs are marking up very well in defence and trying to smash the Sharks where possible.
24.00 – A turnover in the ruck sees a Sharks lineout in their own 22 when the Tahs kick for the corner. After a couple of Waratah lineout wins against the throw, a great inside ball to Stcherbina puts him over for a try under the sticks. Burke converts. 25-3
31.00 – The Sharks mount another aggressive raid on the Tahs line, but are called up for one of two forward passes. Not sure which one. Whenever the 'Tahs have the ball at the moment they seem to gain a lot of metres. Pity they are not maintaining possession and are always pushing the last pass or it would be ugly for the Sharks.
35.00 – Waratah penalty inside the 22 is kicked to touch. Top stuff but it doesn’t pay off. The Tahs mount another couple of attacks before half time but their game has gone to shit and they are fairly done for a couple of obstructions by the ref. First half score 25-3. A half of fairly even possession but of territory dominated by a thus far clearly superior Waratahs team.
2nd Half – Kick-off to the Sharks. Some early back and forth is followed by a brain explosion from the Sharks when they elect to take a quick tap from a penalty against an already set defence and concede a return penalty.
3.00 – Another great Sharks attacking raid gets stalled in the last line when Stcherbina gets the ball about 10m out as the solitary last defender and counters well to defuse the early raid.
7.00 – Knock on by du Toit after a huge Rogers kick. It isn’t his first pinpoint kicking display of the evening either. Rogers is improving markedly every week. All in all though, some real errors are starting to come into the game as both sides seem to lose focus.
8.00 – Whitaker charges down brilliantly inside 10m but knocks on with the pickup for what would have been a certain try. There is an example of those errors I was just talking about.
9.00 – Penalty to the Tahs. Burke kicks. Good choice too as the scoreboard has not moved for some time and it is right in front. 28-3.
11.00 – Fuck you Steve Walsh. Sharks knock on, Staniforth grabs it and makes a clean break of the line to accelerate out with nobody in front of him before Steve decides the Waratahs aren’t going to get any advantage and blows it up. Admittedly he does the decent thing and apologises for only playing a quarter second of advantage but it is still scrum Waratahs on their own 40m line.
14.00 – The Tahs again elect to send a kickable penalty into touch. A knock-on off the lineout is typical of how badly both sides have done the simple things for the last 20min or so.
16.00 – Staniforth charges down in goal and nearly gets himself a try with some great urgency. Top effort.
18.00 – Shit, the Sharks actually make a clean break of the Waratah line. First time in the match. They go 40m but are eventually brought to a halt by scrambling defenders.
21.00 – The Sharks are cheating a lot and certain 'Tahs fans are getting really annoyed. Of course that is most likely just my natural bias so pay no attention.
22.00 – The Tahs knock on 5m out. Another missed opportunity…..
25.00 – After applying some good pressure, the Sharks are held up over the try line. The Waratahs steal after the scrum but a forward pass hands the ball back to the Sharks. A Sharks try finally comes after concerted pressure is applied to the defence, to van Biljoen. Not converted. 28-8.
31.00 – Finally some urgency combined with no mistakes sees Rogers make a bust off a scrum followed up by Stcherbina, Whitaker and then back to Rogers for the try. Burke kicks a good’un and its 35-8
35.00 – Waratahs go in again. It takes the aid of the video ref to decide that Stecherbina has grounded the ball and Burke converts a hard one from the right. 42-8 (final score).
The teams do very little for the rest of the match, Duncan McRae is declared man of the match and the crowd is 26 000 or so, and in the end I decided that despite some flaws, Matt Burke really did find his kicking boots again for that game. The clean sweep of the South African teams is completed and the difficult part of the Waratahs campaign for their first Super 12 finals spot is about to begin. As for the Sharks, I don't know how they've gone from a final appearance to being in this position but they really aren't the team they were last year.