Tahs’ magnificent 7 sinks new-look Rebels
BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder and so too are the positives from a pre-season trial, apparently, after both the Waratahs and the Rebels walked away happy from NSW's 47-5 victory at Brookvale Oval.
The Waratahs led 7-5 after a dour - but defensively intense - opening 40 minutes, before the second half saw the hosts push away and score another six tries, keeping a good Brookie crowd entertained.
The Rebels' wounds looked to have copped an extra dose of salt when captain Adam Coleman limped off with a calf injury but post-game reports suggested it wasn't serious and won't keep him out of Super Rugby's opening round next week.
The Waratahs also lost a Test lock in Rob Simmons, but his departure was only due to a head wound and lack of sleep after wife Lucy gave birth to a first baby boy at 1am.
Hooker Damian Fitzpatrick also appears unlikely to play against the Stormers at home next week after injuring a knee.
It might have appeared a one-sided result to leave Rebels coach Dave Wessels deflated but the new Melbourne boss was, in fact, just as bullish in his rating of his team's effort as NSW counterpart Daryl Gibson.
Both coaches were quick to play down the significance of the scoreline but said the brutality of the encounter, and the lessons learned at set-piece time (where the Rebels largely dominated) would be valuable for the Tahs' clash the Stormers and the Melburnians' opener against the Reds.
"We have talked a lot about the physicality that we are going to require for the Stormers and the most important factor for me tonight was watching that," Gibson said.
"Defensively we were tough to break down at times, and there were some positive signs."
With the like-minded Stormers on the horizon, Gibson was also pleased with his team's ability to deal with the Rebels' aggressive line speed and its capacity to add more speed to the game in the second half, after struggling in the set-piece due to the game's slow-tempo and a "backfired" tactic to not show much at the lineout.
Wessels, too, saw plenty he liked in the effort of his new-look Rebels with a clash against the Reds a week away.
The Rebels were pugnacious in defence and harassed the Waratahs' lineout, in particular. In the end, sloppy ball control, a young bench and a period where they went down to 13 men saw them drop out of the contest but Wessels said there was no reason for Melbourne fans to worry.
"I thought we were the better team for 40-50 minutes of that game. We put a team together in five weeks and we came here and did some really simple things but we did them with massive intensity," Wessels said.
"Super Rugby, particularly in the early rounds, is won on defence and the ability to control the field, which includes set-piece. Those are the things that I think are going to help us beat the Reds next week and that's what we came here to do.
"The result doesn't really bother me at all. You are inexperienced if you come here thinking this is the real show, it's not."
Wessels will welcome back Will Genia, Geoff Parling, Ben Daley, Sam Jeffries and probably Marika Koroibete against the Reds.
Coleman should be fine, too, and there is confidence Dom Shipperley has not re-injured his reconstructed left knee after he also came off.
The Waratahs will go into their opening trial with part-time halfback Mitch Short, from Randwick, on the bench after scans showed Nick Phipps' calf injury is more serious than first thought.
Gibson had plenty of candidates stick up their hand for spots in the opening round team, with Alex Newsome, Curtis Rona and Lalaki Foketi all doing well. Bryce Hegarty also provided impact from the bench.
Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau showed glimpses of their powerhouse form.