Halfback Nick Phipps has accused the NSW Waratahs of believing their own hype as Super Rugby’s fallen champions face up to another sobering early-season reality check.
Phipps says the Waratahs are in for a week of soul searching after Friday night’s humbling home loss to the Highlanders.
The end scoreline of 30-26 flattered the Waratahs, who trailed 30-0 midway through the second half before coach Daryl Gibson cleared the bench and was rewarded with a spirited fightback led by exciting young reserves Jed Holloway, Sam Lousi and Tom Robertson.
Hollaway claimed a tryscoring hat-trick after replacing veteran No.8 Wycliff Palu, while prop Robertson also earned his maiden five-pointer in Super Rugby.
But it was all in vain as the Waratahs still fell short after being upstaged in all departments by the same team who ended their title defence in equally clinical fashion in last year’s semi-final in Sydney.
Barely a month into the season and Phipps already believes his stuttering Tahs are at a dangerous crossroad ahead of Sunday week’s crucial conference derby with the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
“It’s frustrating the way that once we were 30-nil down and didn’t have anything on the line, people started switching on, moving the ball, running with a bit more intent, cleaning at the breakdown; things like that,” Phipps rued.
“It was very disappointing, to be honest.
“We were probably guilty of coming into the game people talking it up and then not delivering out there.
“There’s really no excuse. We got over-rode in the first 40 and we’re at the crossroads now – we’ve got to make a decision.
“Do we want to be just like a courageous team in defeat or do we want to really knuckle down and get the job done.”
While the Waratahs are languishing in the bottom half of the ladder after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in three seasons, Phipps remains optimistic a turnaround is coming.
“I’m still confident. We’re going to be alright,” he said.
“These kicks are nice and early. It gives us a lot of chances to move (forward) and to make sure we tighten things up.
“There’s a lot of stuff to sort of work out during the next nine days before the Reds. We’ve got to head up there and we’ve got to throw it to the wind.
“We’ve got to put a foot on the throat because we can’t just float into the game like that. We can’t just gift 30 points in the first half and then just to expect to come back.”