The Waratahs have kept control of first place in the NHRU Women’s Premiership after winning the “fast and fierce” struggle against Hamilton at Passmore Oval on Saturday.
The chasing Hawks threw everything at the udnefeated defending premiers in the Round 12 top of the table clash, breaking apart the ‘Tahs structure in the slippery conditions. It showed a resilient Waratahs side, Tahlia Goldsmith said, to overcome the “very wet, very muddy” conditions to wave away the Hamilton challenge for the throne.
“The whole game became pretty unstructured because of the conditions, but we got through in the end,” Waratahs number eight Goldsmith told the Chronicle. “Hamilton’s young girls were fit, fast, and fierce and they really aimed up at us in the match.
“The match took us away from our structure, and we definitely bombed a few tries, but the Hawks had a lot to bring against us. Overall our forward pack has just been too dominant, they have been getting us over the line in so many games this season.”
The Tahs broke out to an early 14-nil lead in the poor conditions, with Brittany Hunt and Tai Tauafao leading the way before Mary Tuisalega rounded out a strong opening half with a five-pointer of her own.
Trudi Petersen put the Hawks on the board, bringing the margin back to just 16-points before Goldsmith burst through the defensive line. The number eight sidestepped Hamilton’s fullback, and crossed the line to complete her magnificent 50-metre try.
Goldsmith had already slotted all three of the conversions on offer in the messy conflict at Passmore Oval, and her own final try effort had set her up for a fourth goal between the sticks. She slotted it home, and sealed the 28-5 win over the Hawks.
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It wasn’t just Goldsmith that guided the Waratahs to the potential table-deciding win in Round 12, however. According to the commanding ‘Tahs voice, the dominance of the team’s forward pack has been “like nothing else” this year.
Last season the eventual 2018 champions relied on their superstar backs like Maya Stewart, who tallied nearly 40 tries in her breakout season. This year, Goldsmith explained, it’s been a mix of young explosive talent and their veteran forwards “getting the job done.”
“We saw a lot of new girls come into the side at the start of this season, which is fantastic to see, and Loni [Vikilani, Tahs coach] has been really good at getting everyone together and making us better every week,” she said.
“Cheech [Barker] and I coached the under 17s last year and a lot of those juniors girls have come up into the team this time around, which is great to see. They’ve been settling in with the experienced girls and it’s a good mix.”
The tense clash at Passmore may have gone the way of the ‘Tahs this time around, but Goldsmith believes Hamilton have shown their quality in the two meetings between the clubs. There’s a good chance, the number eight said, the Hawks could be there at the end of the year ready to battle once more for the title.
“It’s looking like it could be us against the Hawks in the end, but nothing is certain of course,” she said of who could potentially be contesting the decider.
“Maitland have looked really good recently, they’ve just knocked over Easts and the Greens so they’re coming up real strong behind us and everyone has to keep an eye on them.”
Elsewhere on Saturday afternoon Maitland proved Goldsmith’s point with a three tries to nil victory over the Greens at Townson Oval to strengthen their fourth-place position, while the Easts-University combined venture defeated Medowie at Dangar Park to stay two points clear in third in the race for finals.
STANDINGS: Waratahs (50), Hamilton (40), Easts-University (21), Maitland (19), Merewether (14), Medowie (0).