Cheika watches brave Tahs lose to Brumbies

Former title-winning coach Michael Cheika was a remarkable observer as NSW Waratahs’ record-breaking streak continued with a heartbreaking 24-22 AU Super Rugby loss to the Brumbies in Sydney.

Will Harrison, the Waratahs’ five-eighth shot, had a conversion chance after the siren sent Friday night’s game into overtime, but pushed his touchdown attempt.

The Waratahs’ sixth straight loss to start the season came less than a week after the NSW board sacked Rob Penney and installed his assistants Chris Whitaker and Jason Gilmore as interim coaches.

In a chaotic conclusion to the game, it was only Harrison’s third missed shot on goal the entire campaign – and Brumbies skipper Nic White easily conceded that his team dodged a ball.

“There may be a bit of discussion about our poor performance, but you have to look at the performance of the Waratahs and the kind of pressure they put on us. It was definitely intense, ”White said.

“There must be a lot of emotion and motivation for them and they showed it and we were lucky enough to get away from it.”

Cheika is said to be advising the Waratahs on the structure of the beleaguered franchise’s long-term training.

(Photo by Dan Mullan / Getty Images)

Whether or not it is interested – or affordable for the Waratahs – to consider a return in any official capacity is another question.

But his appearance at SCG alongside Sydney Roosters NRL coach Trent Robinson certainly raised the tantalizing prospect.

Cheika is the only coach to lead NSW to a Super Rugby title, setting up the Waratahs’ breakthrough in 2014 before leaving the following year to take charge of the Wallabies.

He guided Australia to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final to further build up stocks before leaving after the Wallabies disappointed start to the quarter-finals at the 2019 World Showpiece in Japan.

Former World Rugby Coach of the Year was on the Roosters’ books last year before agreeing to lead Lebanon for the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup.

The cash-strapped Waratahs are unlikely to have the resources to attract Cheika.

But if there is one man who could put the bums back in the seats, restore the reputation and profile of the Waratahs, and attract top players to Sydney, he’s the Master Motivator, Mover and Shaker Cheika.

The Tahs’ inexperienced 2021 class is in serious need of a reshuffle from whoever is named Penney’s full-time successor.

Trying as best they could after a less than ideal four-day preparation, Whitaker and Gilmore were unable to come up with the magic formula for a drought-breaking Waratahs win that desperately needed defending champion Brumbies.

They were at least brave and competitive, but ultimately paid the price for conceding a smooth first two downs and then leading 24-10 at halftime.

The Waratahs made the Brumbies sweat, however, cutting the deficit to seven points with a converted Harrison try in the 65th minute, then nearly forcing super time with a five-point James Ramm in the 83rd minute.

But even after playing most of the second half with a downed man after a yellow card was issued to Rory Scott and a red to Tom Cusack, the Brumbies still held their ground.


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