By Chris Seage, level 2 rugby coach and 1st grade
manager Gordon Rugby Union Club





The Waratahs scored their second pre-season win on Saturday night at Central Coast
Stadium by beating the Auckland Blues 28-21. A healthy crowd of 10,812 watched the game, keen on seeing a
contest after months of watching lopsided cricket matches and walkovers in the
tennis.

Coach Ewen McKenzie experimented by playing 30 of his squad, including their
star signing from the Queensland Reds’ Wendell Sailor, over the four 20-minute
quarters.

While Sailor didn’t have many opportunities, his professionalism will help the
young Waratahs through a tough Super 14 competition. During the warm-up, right
in front of me during a defence drill, he chastised some baby ‘Tahs for not
moving up as a group. Simple stuff, but if it’s not performed right on the
night against an Auckland team bristling with 10 All Blacks then inevitably
holes will appear everywhere in the defence.

Not everyone was listening to Big
Dell as there appeared to be a number of defensive weaknesses in the centres
during the course of the game. Main offenders were Morgan Turinui and rookie
Tom Carter from Sydney University. Carter may have an excuse because he
seemed to be carrying an injury but Turinui is a seasoned Wallaby and needs to
get that part of his game right. Indeed McKenzie may have shown his cards to
the rest of his competitors by playing Turinui on the wing in brief stints. Is
he saying Turinui can’t tackle?

Here is my report card on some of the veteran ‘Tahs:

Matt Dunning: Can someone teach him to run with the ball? Twice he had
the opportunity to do so but instead opted to pass to a player in a worse
position. He needs to be de-programmed, as I think he was a better player when
he burst on to the scene a few years a go.

Rocky Elsom: Great game. Whatever McKenzie was feeding this boy in
the off season, it’s worked!

Adam Freier: The skipper had a good solid game and shaded boom player
Polota-Nau on the night. At this stage his lineout throwing and mobility
around the field are superior to the young bolter.

And now the bolters.

Sam Norton-Knight: The former ACT Brumbie looked very good. Has a great
pair of hands and a deadly boot. He also defended stoutly. Matt Rogers watch
out!

Daniel Halangahu: Came on in the second half replacing Peter Hewat at
fullback and made an immediate impression with his flair in attack. Hewat
also played well and will be fullback for the opening game next month.
Halangahu, the former Kings School and Sydney University five eight, may be an option at inside
centre.

Another to impress me was former South Sydney NRL half back Brett Sheehan, who
has a reputation for toughness but showed enough in attack and defence to
indicate he will present a major threat to Chris Whitaker this season.

It is worth mentioning that in the curtain raiser to the main game,
new Sydney
Premiership entrant the Central Coast Waves lost narrowly to the
powerhouse Sydney University club 22-17. They will surprise a few
clubs this year.

Peter Fray

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