Waratahs coach Michael Cheika may have more questions than answers after his Waratahs lost to the Rebels in their first Super Rugby trial at Albury on Saturday.
Cheika was just happy for his squad to have had their first game. ”I just wanted them to get a hit out. We have timed our pre-season to work this way,” he said.
”We have an extra trial than we did last year so that everyone can run because of the way everyone is coming back staggered. So the main priority was to get a hit out.”
But Cheika said two areas where the Waratahs fell short on in the game were ”in the attacking ruck and turnover defence”.
”We have to take a look and see why,” Cheika said. ”We didn’t have a whole lot of ball during the game. We got pretty heavily penalised and didn’t have a lot of ball to attack from. When we did we looked good.
”But we struggled sometimes on attacking ruck and turnover defence, just in that 20-minute block in the third quarter.”
The Waratahs showed glimpses of what they can do at the Albury Sports Centre in the first 20-minute quarters when they always looked dangerous with the ball.
But while NSW still led going into half-time in the third quarter they appeared to suffer more than the Rebels on a day when it reached 41 degrees and hovered in the high 30s throughout the game.
It was in the third and punishing quarter when the Rebels pushed through to take the lead from NSW, who were constantly pressured and began to give away penalties.
But the game did not appear to settle any selection questions for Cheika.
The Waratahs led 7-0 after the first 20-minute quarter thanks to a converted try by halfback Brendan McKibbin after four minutes.
McKibbin’s opportunity came courtesy of second-rower Will Skelton, whose bustling five-metre run got the Waratahs past the Rebels’ 22-metre line.
Skelton, active in the first quarter, was tackled but offloaded to McKibbin who weaved past two defenders before finding open space to score.
The Rebels looked set to draw even just before the break, with a run by winger Alex Rokobaro produced off the back of the scrum about 20m from the NSW line.
He was brought down, but then the Waratahs were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown.
The Rebels took a quick tap but a knock-on just before the 20-minute siren rang snuffed their scoring opportunity.
The first injury of the night came just before the break when Rebels inside-centre Lachie Mitchell broke down with heat stress. After the break, Rebels inside-centre Mitch Inman was quick to make his mark after being brought on.
He scored the Rebels’ first try of the season to leave them two points behind with the score at 7-5 after the conversion was missed.
One more try each in the second quarter by both sides – from NSW winger Matt Carraro through some weak defence and Rebels halfback Ben Meehan, who chased down a grubber by his captain and No.8 Scott Higginbotham – left the score at 14-12.
But just before half-time Stephen Hoiles, playing for the Waratahs on trial in a bid to earn a contract, took a short pass from five metres out to score NSW’s third try.
Converted by McKibbin, the Waratahs went into the break 21-12 in the lead.
The Waratahs were penalised several times in the third quarter and then were left a man down after prop Tim Metcher was shown a yellow card for offside.
Tries by five-eighth Bryce Hegarty and fullback Jason Woodward gave the Rebels a 26-21 lead.
The Rebels then surged away to a 33-21 lead when outside back Tom English scored their fifth try which Woodward also converted.
The Rebels, to their credit, never let up, even though Peter Betham’s try for NSW left the score at 33-28.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.