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Why ex-Wallaby had ‘bad feeling’ Tahs would struggle late vs. Highlanders

By Finn Morton
Tane Edmed of the Waratahs reacts after missing a penalty goal to win the match during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Highlanders at Allianz Stadium, on March 08, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Watching on from the sidelines at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium on Friday night, former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles “had a bad feeling” the Waratahs were going to struggle to hold onto their lead against the visiting Highlanders.

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Playmaker Tane Edmed kicked 11 points for the Waratahs during the first term as they fought their way into a slender lead going into the break, but the second half was a different story.

The New South Welshman held onto their tight three-point advantage until the 57th minute when Sam Gilbert levelled the scores with a penalty, and a stunning Tanielu Tale’a try saw the Dunedin-based franchise sneak in front late in the contest.

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Fullback Max Jorgensen crossed for the Waratahs’ first points in almost half-an-hour with a try in the 67th minute, but the scores wouldn’t change as the Landers held on for a 21-23 victory.

Match Summary

3
Penalty Goals
3
2
Tries
2
1
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
111
Carries
79
6
Line Breaks
3
16
Turnovers Lost
13
4
Turnovers Won
8

Tane Edmed had a chance to steal the win with a penalty after the full-time siren, and while that missed attempt was a talking point, it may not be the driving reason behind their agonising defeat.

“I did feel as though they were tiring, sitting down on the sideline looking at them,” Stephen Hoiles said on Stan Sport’s Between Two Posts.

“I feel as though what we saw, when you guys crossed to Clark Dermody the (Highlanders) coach during the game, he said, ‘I’m confident in our bench, we’ll get them on soon, I think that’ll be a big difference.’ That was one of his quotes.

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“Then I looked at (the Highlanders bench) and they were coming on and they were replacing guys that still had a bit of running in their legs whereas the Tahs were basically just holding their best out there as long as possible.

“Just didn’t have, I don’t think they had the depth the Highlanders had. There were a lot of guys that were tired in blue jerseys… that’s sometimes because in the first half they did a lot more attacking without getting paid.

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“It’s often harder to put 10, 15 attacking phases together than it is to defend because the defence just makes the tackles, get up and stay there, the attacking players have to move around and fold.

“I had a bad feeling the whole time that the Highlanders were going to finish stronger.”

Wallaby and Waratahs centre Izaia Perese was one of the standout performers in Sky Blue on Friday evening, with the former NRL wing crossing for a try midway through the first-half.

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Perese, 26, reeled in a clever kick from wing Mark Nawaqanitawase to score what ended up being the first of two Waratahs tries on the night.

“He’s awesome. You’ve just got to find ways to get him those good one-on-ones, that’s his game,” Hoiles added.

“Even the moments he didn’t break the line open, pretty much every one of his first phases, he takes four or five meters post-contact and gets quick recycle. He’s excellent.

“He’s one of those players who, he cramped and they had to get him off with 15 to go.”

The Waratahs started their season with a comprehensive loss to arch-rivals the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, but bounced back with a stunning upset over defending champions the Crusaders in Super Round.

But the men from New South Wales are eighth on the ladder at the moment after their second loss in three starts, and it doesn’t get any easier for them.

The Waratahs host a star-studded Blues outfit at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening.

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