No-one ever said rugby writers have to be
impartial – which is just as well for the NSW brigade in light of the hyperbole
over the NSW Waratahs’ defeat of the ACT Brumbies. The SMH over the past two days has given the
impression rugby has never been played as well and Sunday night’s Tahs team
will be selected en masse as the 2006 Wallabies.

The truth is that truly great rugby is
played by evenly matched sides. Once Australian rugby’s most important player,
Steve Larkham, hobbled off the pitch in the 12th minute, the sides
weren’t evenly matched. The first half was nonetheless exciting stuff and a
great contest, but only the Tahs fans had anything to cheer about in the second
40 minutes. The NSW pack subdued the Brumbies whose backs then lost the plot
and the contest became lopsided.

What’s particularly bemusing is the way the
NSW scribes have wet themselves over the Tahs tight five dominating the Brumbies’
scrum and lineout – it’s really no great achievement as that has been the ACT’s
weakness all season. The forwards performance of note over the weekend was the
lowly Queensland Reds standing up to the massive Bulls – but I’m a Queenslander and don’t have to be
impartial about that win.

As a selection trial for the Wallaby
positions in contention, Sunday night confirmed Adam Freier as the form hooker,
George Smith as the top open side flanker and Mortlock as out centre. George
Gregan was clearly outpointed by Whitaker – but he’s not available for Wallaby
selection. The number 8 and 7 positions remain up for grabs, as does one wing
and there’s still plenty of argument to be had about who the props will be –
but they won’t come from the ACT.

I was sitting next to an old half back who
correctly predicted at half time, the match 14-14, that NSW would run away with it. The cleaner ball
coming to Whitaker going forward, the rhythm of the forwards, made it
inevitable. For the next selection match, ACT v Queensland, if
Larkham is still out, it could be on again.

Peter Fray

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