Cheika laments Tahs' stage fright
February 24, 2013
Michael Cheika said there were plenty of positives to be taken from his side's first outing in Super Rugby for 2013 © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs suffered stage fright at precisely the wrong moment, coach Michael Cheika said after they lost 25-17 to Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
New South Wales had fought their way back into the contest in the second half to level the scores at 17 after an early two-try burst by Queensland had put them on the back foot.
The Waratahs produced a spell of confident, attacking rugby to claim tries through debutant Israel Folau and Ben Volavola, but then seemed to "freeze" when they game was there to be won.
The Reds regained the possession they needed to work their way back into the contest, and a Michael Harris penalty gave them the lead before Ed Quirk went on a 35-metre run to set up Ben Tapuai for the match-sealing try with five minutes remaining.
"We've got to learn to play under pressure. Simple," Cheika said after the match. "And we will. We'll go through it, and we will learn how to play under pressure more often, more often, more often, and the more we do it, the better we'll get at it."
Cheika said there were plenty of positives to be taken from his side's first outing in Super Rugby for 2013.
"I think that we showed that we've got good potential," he said.
Queensland and New South Wales each have much to take out of the match
"We showed that we're prepared to work hard. I don't think there was any question about that. "We showed that we're prepared to play a new style of game, even sometimes maybe to our own detriment. But we're committed to doing that because we believe it's the way to teach ourselves to go forward and be successful."
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis accepted the players had lost composure when the scores were tied.
"There was a sense out there when we got back to 17-all that we were a chance, and we probably put ourselves under pressure, to be fair," Dennis said.
"We were in control of that game once we got back to 17, the momentum was all with us, and for some reason we felt we were under pressure. When the reality was, we had them under the pump. It's just a mindset we've got to change."
Cheika was particularly displeased with a Mike Harris off-the-ball hit on Adam Ashley-Cooper in the 27th minute of the contest, as the Waratahs centre chased down a Drew Mitchell kick.
Ashley-Cooper was left with neck spasms and was unable to return for the second half.
The Waratahs were given a penalty as a result of the incident, but no further punishment was meted out to Harris during the match.
"He took a shot off the ball, no arms, no-one does anything about it, and the guy can hardly move in there," Cheika said. From my end, he gets hit with no arms, no ball, comes off the field, and nothing happens."