It is official, after three chapters of the 2020 story: the Waratahs are currently the worst side in the 2020 competition having not won a match, nor even really looking like doing so. Furthermore, they have conceded 14 tries in just three games and have been unable to obtain any face-saving bonus points along the way. It’s a truly unremarkable effort.
This story is already turning in to situation critical for Waratahs head coach Rob Penney and his team, yet how and why has this season already become a ‘train crash in slow motion’ when there is obvious talent and experience in both the coaching and playing staff?
What is going wrong?
Earlier this year, there was every reason to believe that the Waratahs would at least have a competitive forward pack. As it has played out thus far, their quality must be questioned.
Are they competitive? Yes. Consistent? No. Dominant? Infrequently.
How can a forward pack that contains significant international experience in the likes of Rob Simmons and Michael Hooper, coupled with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway, Lachie Swinton, and Tom Staniforth not be consistently ruthless at the collision? After all, they are not lacking in size or skill to do so.
Individually, each has done some exceptional work in the three games played thus far – consider Hooper’s performance in the opening round against the Crusaders as an example. Why this Waratah pack has failed to galvanize as a playing unit after three defeats, however, despite their experience, is perplexing.
It appears they have the ‘bricks’ to be a better side than they are now, but are well short on ‘mortar’.
Rob Penney has taken on arguably the toughest job in Australian provincial rugby. He has the unenviable task of trying to implement his style of rugby into a playing group that may not entirely understand his intentions.
It is obvious from the rugby being played on the field that there is discourse or confusion somewhere within the operation as the option taking and decision-making has been substandard and has cost the Waratahs dearly.
During the press conference post the defeat in round two against the Blues when Rob Penney was addressing the media and commenting on his thoughts, his captain Rob Simmons turned and faced Penney, and appeared to give him a prolonged stare with a facial expression that exuded one of confusion.
It begs the question, are these two even on the same page? Because there does not really appear to be a consistent coherent output on the field to suggest they are.
Against the Rebels, it was patently obvious the Waratahs did not deserve to win. Ill-discipline coupled with poor application to facets of the game, that requires no talent, were evident in the Waratahs’ performance.
At times the Rebels were allowed to exit their 22 with ease with little to no pressure coming onto the clearance kick. Furthermore, how many kicks from the Waratahs were kicked into an area that relived themselves of possession but not pressure?
This again comes back to option taking and whilst rookie flyhalf Will Harrison is handling himself admirably, he requires a more experienced rugby player than Karmichael Hunt closer to him to assist him with that decision making moving forward.
There is now speculation Kurtley Beale might be brought into the flyhalf role.
Moving Hunt into 13 and bringing Beale into 12, allowing him to assist the talented youngster, would be of greater benefit to the Waratahs in the immediate term. Such a move would allow Jack Maddocks to play from fullback where he could flourish.
A positive for the Waratahs was the performance of 19-year-old loosehead prop Angus Bell. He has the size and strength to be something special, yet technically he appeared to be packing a little too high initially and furthermore spent too much time talking to the assistant referee. More scrums and less chatter would serve him best but it’s easy to understand why the young prop is generating so much excitement.
How chapter four of this story unfolds is unknown, yet if a reader were going to buy the fourth chapter of this Penny Dreadful, they must be hard up for entertainment because the Waratahs thus far are anything but a good news story in 2020.
Rob Penney ahead of the Waratahs match against the Rebels:
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