‘A massive mountain’: Tahs’ night goes from bad to worse as Test stars set to miss QF at Eden Park


An ugly night for the Waratahs has soured even further, with Darren Coleman set to lose a number of first-choice players for their perilous quarter-final against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.

Indeed, a night that was billed as a celebration for Michael Hooper’s final game in blue in Sydney fell flat as a well-disciplined Moana Pasifika took their chances and shocked the Waratahs to secure their first win of the season and dampen the mood at Allianz Stadium.

Reputations were damaged while others came away injured, leaving Darren Coleman to count the cost of an “embarrassing” final home game of the season.

Captain Jake Gordon (concussion) and prop Harry Johnson-Holmes (syndesmosis) are set to miss the trip across the ditch while backrower Langi Gleeson (back) and utility back Izaia Perese (hip) are also in doubt.

“They’ll sort of race the clock to get right,” Coleman said.

“It always seems to be the way you play poorly, you get injuries and then you look up and it looks like it’s a massive mountain in front of you. It feels that way right now.

“But, as I said, we’re going to shake it off and get a night’s sleep on it and I’m looking forward to attacking it tomorrow.”

Darren Coleman says he’s got a big job getting the Waratahs back in the hunt to take on the Blues in next weekend’s quarter-final. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Waratahs will likely welcome back Lalakai Foketi for their quarter-final showdown as well as Dave Porecki, but the mountain is more Everest than Kosciuszko.

Indeed, Coleman’s men will head to Eden Park with history stacked against them.

They’ve won just once from 14 attempts at the venue since Super Rugby started in 1996, while you have to go back to 1928 for their only other victory.

And off the back of their ugly 33-24 loss in Sydney, Coleman said his side would embrace being written off against a Blues side packed full of All Blacks stars.

“Yeah, we have to. Of course. It’s hurting now. [I am] embarrassed now off the back of that,” Coleman said.

“We had such a good opportunity with such a good crowd and what would have been a good event to finish on a high. You see those juniors march in and you really want to win them over on the sport by having a team they look up to and we dish up that shit. I take full responsibility for that.

“My job is to lick my wounds tonight and then figure out how I’m going to get us out of it tomorrow and get going.

“We’re probably in a similar position to where I was when I took on the job. No one gave us too much of a chance. There was a lot of negative chat. I’ll figure out how I try and get us up. I’m hurting now. I’ll be ready to go by 6am.”

Harry Johnson-Holmes will miss the Waratahs’ final against the Blues after coming off injured against Moana Pasifika at Allianz Stadium on June 03, 2023 in Sydney. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Waratahs have known all week they would likely face the Blues and Coleman said they were well prepared going into their knockout match.

“We were prepped that was the most likely scenario,” Coleman said.

“The coaches have met today. We feel like we’ve got a plan on how to attack it.

“There’s no doubt we’ll have to be at or very near our best and we’ll have to have an incredible amount of effort and hustle and physicality to stay in it.

“Something we’ve been trying to do all year is combine execution with effort. Some days we get a bit of both. Not much of one, too much of the other. That’ll be the task for the week.

“Obviously we won’t get too much training done with a six-day turnaround and a trip over there mixed in. We’ll take stock of who we’ve got.

“I think we’ve put too much work in for the last eight months to fly the white flag. I just need a bit of time to shake that performance off and regroup for tomorrow morning.”

Jake Gordon came off injured in the second half following a concussion against Moana Pasifika at Allianz Stadium on June 03, 2023 in Sydney. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Experienced forward Hugh Sinclair, who missed his side’s poor 55-21 loss to the Blues at Eden Park in April because of injury, said the Waratahs knew the challenge ahead of them but added his side would embrace the knockout match.

“Yeah, look, It’s tough. It’s one of the toughest assignments you can have,” he said.

“We had a decent learning curve with the Chiefs last year, that was the first week of finals as well, so I think we take some lessons out of that. But yeah, Eden Park, it’s a different beast. It’s their fortress. Australian Rugby hasn’t done well there. But finals are a funny thing. Strange things can happen.

“We’ve got to stop them from scoring points and if we do that, anything could happen. We get a few players back next week, a couple of Wallabies. That always helps. We’ll be in it.

“You’ve got to have a crack. As DC [Coleman] said, we’re not going to wave the white flag. We’re going to go out there and have a go. Yeah, we’ve got a couple of injuries, but at the end of the day, it’s 15 Kiwis versus 15 Aussies. We play the Aussie way, we play our way. We play with some more accuracy, we play tough and we’ll be all right, we’ll get the result.”

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