Rugby returned to Australia tonight when the traditional powerhouses of the Australian game the Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs did battle at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane in round one of Super Rugby AU. Whilst both sides were just keen to get out on the park and play some rugby post the COVID-19 lay off, the undertone of this match is that these sides were playing for the credibility of the Australian game after an exceptionally turbulent post the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rugby in Australia needed a good story and perhaps New South Wales’ coach Rob Penney’s selection of exciting prospects Angus Bell, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Will Harris would tell a memorable tale?

Despite a gutsy performance the Waratahs were edged out by the hosts 32-26 yet won respect considering how poorly they had been playing prior to the COVID break. This was clearly a Waratah outfit intent on playing quality rugby.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

Let’s see how the Waratahs rated:

1. Angus Bell – 5.5

Was taken to school in the scrums by Taniela Toupo that resulted in his sending off for repeat infringements, but outside of Bell applied himself to greater effect. His got off the defence line, made his tackles and had the odd charge into the Reds defensive line.

2. Robbie Abel – 6

ADVERTISEMENT

Had a poor lineout early on but adjusted nicely. Worked hard in the tight, missing the odd tackle. An honest, tradesman like performance and a player who rarely failed to do his role.

3. Harry Johnson-Holmes – 7

Brought plenty of energy in the set piece and in the tight and was rewarded with a try for his endeavour. He showed an understanding of attacking space when cutting in behind the defence from an unexpected pass. He can play what’s in front of him and to a structure. Best of the Waratah front rowers and the Novocastrian appears to be looking to take his game to the next level. 

4. Ned Hanigan – 6.5

ADVERTISEMENT

A very respectable return to Super Rugby after a long injury pay off. Performed prodigiously in the lineout, even stealing a throw. Enjoyed his bullet-like pass to cut one and hit his left winger James Ramm into space. Will be better for the run next week and would like to see him with the ball in hand around the fringes more. 

5. Rob Simmons – 7

Worked admirably but he lacks influence as a leader on the referee as perhaps a really good skipper should. That aside he used all his experience to disturb the Reds lineout ball by closing the gap and reading the jump. Put in a good shift.

6. Lachie Swinton – 7.5

The muscle of the Waratah pack. He simply wants to hurt and dominate his opponent and did a very good job of limiting the Reds meter eater Harry Wilson. Despite putting in some jarring hits, he was found out in defence twice leading to a Reds try by either a spacing misread or simply having poor body position. He didn’t do enough in attack with the ball despite putting a fine passing effort to put others into space, especially his full-back Jack Maddocks. Plenty to like, plenty to work on.

7. Michael Hooper – 8

Consummate Michael Hooper performance. Involved in everything and remains the master of second efforts. Had some stiff competition from Liam Wright and Fraser McReight but still shone through. 

8. Will Harris – 6.5

Impressed in his debut. Very athletic and has a high work rate but not in the class of Harry Wilson or Isi Naisarani. In offence he got caught being too lateral and high at times but too his credit he worked his way into the game and was not a passenger.

9. Mitch Short – 6

Was clearly the second-best half back on the park. Was outplayed by Tate McDermott but he never stopped trying and had his moments without being spectacular. 

10. Will Harrison – 7

A very credible performance. His option taking was sound, appeared to be more comfortable in the role and wanted to take control of the match. Made several telling runs into the Reds line and set his attack up nicely. When he made an error, he looked to correct it. Made a wonderful try saving tackle on Tate McDermott displaying his desire to stay in the contest. Yet he must address his front on defence as he got ‘speed-bumped’ several times. 

11. Mark Nawaqanitawase – 6

Didn’t get as much opportunity as he would have liked to have show his immense talent. Could have done a little more work.

12. Joey Walton – 5.5

On debut he looked lost out there in the first 20 or so but had some nice touches and put himself into some good supporting lines. Tended to get lost in the fog of the match without ever shining a torch to let us know he was there. 

13. Alex Newsome – 6.5

Had some very nice touches and importantly made all of his tackles. The Waratahs need to find a way to get Newsome more involved in attack and was another who appeared missing through the lack of ball and he too should have gone looking for more work. 

14. James Ramm – 6

A mixed game. Ramm has some speed and works well in limited space. Yet he through a rocket of a pass inside to a support player who dropped the ball. I like the fact he went looking for work despite it not always coming off. Acknowledge his persistence and willingness.

15. Jack Maddocks – 8

Best Waratah back. He really looks to have found his home at full-back. He looked to counter attack and didn’t play within himself. Scoring a wonderful try by tracking behind a breakdown to take an inside pass off Swinton and push through a yawning gap and cruised to the line. Best try of the match. Furthermore, he played tough under the high ball, put his shoulder in defence but showed an exceptional turn of speed to fell Tate McDermott who for all money looked like he was set for a runaway try. Wallabies Coach Dave Rennie no doubt would have been impressed. 

Reserves

16. Tom Horton – 5.5

Another debutant. Has the frame but not sure about the game, yet. Hard to judge from tonight performance. If anything, a little quite given the ample opportunity.

17. Tetera Faulkner – 5

The Veteran was there and did his bit. Nothing spectacular. 

18. Tiaan Tauakipulu – 6

Has a bit about him and wanted to get stuck in. However, was not on the field for long enough to get an accurate read but a prospect to follow. 

19. Tom Staniforth – 6

Came on and worked hard in tight as always. Nothing much beyond that. 

20. Jack Dempsey – 6

Didn’t do enough as an impact player given his Wallaby experience.

21. Michael McDonald – NA

22. Ben Donaldson – 5

Only on for limited minutes.

23. Tepai Moeroa – 5

Only on for limited minutes.

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now