<
>

New-ish venue, same old NSW Waratahs

play
Inside the Tahs (3:24)

ESPN goes inside the NSW Waratahs' intense preseason camp in the lead up to their 2019 Super Rugby campaign. (3:24)

It may have been a new venue - if we ignore last year's one-off match - but it was the same-old, mixed-bag NSW Waratahs that turned up to Brookvale Oval for their opening match of the 2019 season; conceding a 75th minute try to lose 19-20 to the Hurricanes.

In front of a sell-out crowd, the Tahs held the lead for much of the match and looked likely to hold on for a shaky victory heading into the final minutes, before errors and the Canes' Du'Plessis Kirifi cost the Tahs a season opening win.

Holding just 38 percent possession in the first half and 55 percent in the second, the Tahs got on the board early through a third minute penalty before continuing to build their lead through penalty kicks.

But eventually the Tahs reverted back to their ways of old over the 80 minutes, conceding 12 penalties and 13 turnovers.

"Obviously we're disappointed, it's never great to lose a close game, particularly when you have chances to win the game," Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said post-match.

"I thought for large parts we controlled it really well, right up until when the Canes went ahead. It was a pretty scrappy affair from both sides, with numerous mistakes, lots of turnovers; it looked like two teams working themselves back into the season."

The competition's top point scorers in 2018, the Tahs showed they again had the talent and skill to score blistering tries - Curtis Rona's 43rd minute score a great example as he connected onto a strong Israel Folau linebreak.

However, the hosts were also one of the worst sides for conceding points last season, and they appeared to be suffering from the same issues that have plagued them; loose carries, poor set piece and a lack of precision at the breakdown.

Usual suspects Ned Hanigan, Tolu Latu and Rob Simmons stopped any momentum with their loose runs, with Hanigan, Latu and Sekope Kepu repeatedly finding themselves at the attention of the referee to give the Hurricanes all the opportunities they needed to keep within a few points.

The set piece again proved a big issue with the Tahs suffering four penalties - at times being completely dismantled - including one just five metres from the Canes' line early in the first half.

The Tahs' lineout suffered a similar fate, winning just 10 from 13, with a not-straight call leading to Kirifi's try in the closing minutes.

It was a frustrating night for Tahs fans and their coach as they never truly took control of the match, eventually succumbing to the one point loss after Bernard Foley failed to slot a game winning penalty with a minute left on the clock.

At least two tries were left on the park, including a missed opportunity just metres from the opposition's line with the usually unflappable Folau dropping the ball cold.

"A couple of things [disappointed]. I thought our possession - we lacked sustained periods of time with the ball - whether we lost it at the lineout or lost it in the phase play, we never really were able to exert enough pressure on the Hurricanes to really make that tell," Gibson said.

However, Gibson was impressed by his side's defensive play, as they kept the Canes' backline mostly quiet for the match and made a big impact on the visitors' ruck.

"I think just generally, our defence shape - conceding two tries - was impressive," Gibson said. "One was from a maul, the other was from a pick and go. But overall we did an excellent job on their ruck speed. It was pretty low for them and that told, they didn't really get on top of us.

"It's probably one of the positives that came out of the game. We've been doing a lot of work there. I thought our shots were good and it really slowed their ball down, so our system looked pretty set. It was pretty good."

Karmichael Hunt's first appearance in the sky blue alongside the return of former Tah favourite Adam Ashley-Cooper still weren't enough to elevate the side to a win, with both players producing mixed results.

Hunt made an impression in attack with nine runs and 44 metres, but his defence took a hit after missing four tackles. Ashley-Cooper struggled to make his usual impact on the pitch, making just nine metres from nine runs and missing three tackles.

But Gibson could only see the positives in what the centre pairing had brought to the side.

"I thought he [Karmichael] was strong, he had nice strong carries. They [Hurricanes] had a couple of big, block busters up field in [Ngani] Laumape and [Vince] Aso. They're a handful and I think they handled themselves well, both Adam and Karmichael. He [Hunt] had some excellent carries."

Flying out to Japan later in the week to face the Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Waratahs will have plenty on their minds after they let a season opening win slip through their fingers.