Are the NSW Waratahs better than the Queensland Reds?

It was a time of dramatic change in the fortunes of provincial rugby in Australia. For the first time since the new iteration of Super Rugby began in 2021, sky blue has climbed above brown on a grading scale. At the same time, the Waratahs have edged out their toughest rivals with their number of wins against New Zealand opponents.

New South Wales have now beaten both Crusaders and Highlanders in the 2022 Super Pacific, while Queensland have to go back until May 29, 2021 for their only victory over the Chiefs.

While the Reds remain almighty against home opposition, the Tahs have proven the most adaptable and successful against trans-Tasman opponents. In Sunday night’s clash against the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, they even felt confident enough to rest strikers like Angus Bell, Jed Holloway and Charlie Gamble who have been so essential to their effectiveness in 2022.

Other top picks like Harry Johnson-Holmes at props and Izaia Perese at centers were also missing. When you have the confidence to rotate players and always know your fundamentals are good enough to deliver a competitive performance away from home, you are onto a winner.

For all their dominance at home in Australia, the Reds are yet to take the next step. Brad Thorn and his proteges remain stuck under a glass ceiling, while Darren Coleman’s team has already passed through it. If this raises questions about Thorn’s ability to rise to the next level as a head coach, it’s sure to slow his players’ progression to full Wallaby honours.

Looking ahead to England in July, and the Bledisloe Cup series beyond, Dave Rennie will reward players above all else, who know how to win games against opponents outside Australia.

Already, there are even more Waratahs looking to join the queue in Rennie’s mind. His initial team pick included Angus Bell, Dave Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper and Lachie Swinton up front; and Ben Donaldson, Lalakai Foketi, Jake Gordon, Izaia Perese behind.

If this group of 40 men were to be re-selected at this time, it is highly likely that others like Ned Hanigan, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Charlie Gamble would be added – at least, when the latter becomes eligible for the Wallabies.

They seem to possess the qualities that Darren Coleman is so keen to engender: a sense of humility in the jersey and a willingness to sacrifice their time to help others. As Coleman forwards coach Pauli Taumoepeau recently commented of Charlie Gamble:

“What I love about Charlie is I can see there’s real appreciation every time he’s nominated, every week. Everyone would be like ‘yeah sure he’s the first pick ‘, but Charlie is ‘oh yeah, unreal’ and he’s so excited.

“Everyone sees his performance on the pitch”, but off the pitch he is just as impressive. He’s always that guy who stays behind to help a teammate do extras: passing, catching, lifting, whatever. You look, and it’s still Charlie. It’s just quality.

“We are always trying to find a loophole. I haven’t found it yet.”

As captain Michael Hooper added the day after the victory at Forsyth-Barr:

“We have a very good style of play. Our coaches are tough on us when we make mistakes, they tell us about them and they want us to improve. Everything is done in a very good way with the idea of ​​becoming a better team and becoming better players – they play for each other, we are well placed.

One of the main benefits of this obvious sense of team spirit is that the players really believe in a rotation policy at the selection table, which is designed to rest key players and give other members of the team a chance to start. They trust each other to produce a performance that doesn’t lose too much to what’s come before, with little or no loss of standard.

At present, this cannot be said of the Queensland facility. When the Reds lost key players ahead of battles against the Kiwi opposition, they struggled to replace them without losing effectiveness.

The second major benefit of the rotation is that it allows you to pack your bench with power and quality, and that’s the course Darren Coleman took against the Highlanders. He opted for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs and looked to Bell, Hanigan and Gamble to make the difference in the final quarter of the game.

That’s exactly what they did. All three entered the fray around the hour mark, just after Scott Gregory’s try brought the score to a slim four-point margin, and the Waratahs then racked up the next 13 points to put the result of the game beyond doubt.

As Justin Marshall said during an in-game commentary:

“They all added massively for the Waratahs. Players injected by the Highlanders failed to enter the game like these guys. The impact from the Waratahs’ bench was nothing short of outstanding and most likely the catalyst for their victory in this game.

The statistics of the last 20 minutes are surprising:

Player Races Meters Defenders beaten Unloadings Forced turnovers
Ned Hanigan 7 61 2 2 2
Angus Bell 7 28 1 0 1
Charlie Gamble 3 7 0 0 2

Add to that the energizing bunny Michael Hooper, with his seven 81-yard carries and one clean break, four beat defenders, one offload, one forced turnaround and 18 game-leading tackles, and you have a formidable quarterfinal package. It was too much for the Highlanders.

As Ned Hanigan filled in as Holloway in defense, stopping the ball carrier high and winning the turnover on deck:

Charlie Gamble was doing the same job in the field,

These two penalties on the ball are won on the one hand by an automatic tackle and a jackal in collaboration with Fantastic captain Michael Hooper, and on the other hand by fellow super-sub center Jamie Roberts.

Nic Berry had obviously been busy reading last week’s article and for once Angus Bell found himself thankfully clear of refereeing censure for collapsing the scrum!

As usual, Gus is free to frolic when the set piece goes well, both in defence:

And attack,

This streak is a great example of how new energy can connect to the bench on offense to build momentum. There are two bits of constructive play from Ned Hanigan – a smooth pass and a fresh ruck over a positive run by another forward substitute (Jeremy Williams), followed by an accurate cut pass by Gamble putting Angus Bell through the hole in midfield. Result? Penalty dropped by a stretched D and three more points.

Both Michael Hooper and Jamie Roberts had their best performances of the season so far. Hooper scored a great try from the base of the ruck (2:45 on the highlight reel).

Then he fired a red card at Sam Gilbert for a dangerous tackle [@1:25 on the reel]. Hooper was friendly and good as link number 7:

Again, it’s about joining new energy. Scrum-half Jake Gordon hands over to Hooper, who turns away in the tackle to link up with Ned Hanigan, who in turn is able to offload for Lalakai Foketi to play deep in the Highlanders 22. At the end of the game , Williams is in support of the cleanup on Foketi and Hanigan has already recycled for the next phase of attack.

Here is another sequence illustrating the same theme:

Jamie does what he has done for Wales countless times, winning the first collision to set Hanigan up for the second wave with Gamble at his side. Another penalty, three more points.

It was the much-maligned Ned Hanigan who was the most productive sky-blue addition of all on the bench. He froze the game by contributing two solid runs in four phases before making the decisive break and unloading on Tane Edmed:


Each round of the cross-border portion of Super Rugby Pacific 2022 that passes brings more cheer for New South Wales and more worry for Queensland – despite their painstaking 34-22 win over Moana Pasifika at Suncorp.

Darren Coleman is steadily building trust in the Waratahs team, and the virus is spreading fast. He managed to rotate six top-tier ‘old reliable players’ from his starting line-up and claim a convincing win at Forsyth-Barr Stadium.

It’s fair to say that Coleman is nurturing confidence in his charges against the Kiwi opposition faster than Brad Thorn was able to in Queensland. The Reds are still too dependent on the presence of key players and their confidence does not flow through the full depth of the squad. They have yet to develop a game formula which poses serious problems for the teams of Aotearoa.

Meanwhile, Coleman’s bold choices – dropping Bell, Hanigan and Gamble to the bench and going for a 6-2 split on the pine – proved wisely judged and won the game for New South Wales. in the last quarter. . If RA is looking for an Australian coach after Dave Rennie, Darren Coleman is already getting his hands dirty.

Coleman can find a lot of his players on Team Wallaby if he can. There are currently ten in the Wallaby squad of 40, but at least three more could be added at the current rate of progression: Ned Hanigan, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Charlie Gamble (when eligible).

If that happens, the ‘sea change into something rich and weird’ will be complete, and the reigning AU Super Rugby champions could unwittingly find themselves an increasingly distant image in Dave Rennie’s rear-view mirror.

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