“There’s challenges for us. I’m not hiding away under excuses, because we came out today and we went hard at ’em, but it’s a challenge for us at times.”
He also questioned the fairness of using a rival Super Rugby team’s doctor as the independent match doctor at Saturday’s game and bemoaned his side’s bad luck losing a prop and a hooker to injury, leaving them with 13 players on the field.
Byrne said the club’s bosses were planning to raise the issue formally to SANZAAR, the competition administrators.
“Last week was an issue for us. A player was asked, in English, what stadium he was at, and unfortunately for our boys he didn’t have a clue where he was at. He said ‘I don’t know’,” Byrne said.
“The match day today (in Melbourne) is a Super team doctor and he was the match-day doctor.
“There’s just little things. I’m not making excuses. We got beaten today and we got beaten fair and square at the end of the day, but some things we’d like to have got better. When we went down to 13 (players) we were in a bit of trouble.”
SANZAAR, the joint venture that runs Super Rugby, has been contacted for comment.
The Drua were all over the Waratahs for the first 45 minutes, using ferocious defence to unnerve their opposition. Drua captain and hooker Tevita Ikanivere, who scored early in the second half to give his side a 17-10 lead but had to come off the field later due to cramping in both legs, said he was devastated he could not finish the game but proud of his side’s effort in the first 50 minutes.
“I know, coming out in the second half, they (the Waratahs) couldn’t live with us, with our physicality,” he said. “I saw it in their faces and in their body language. Circumstances didn’t go our way after 45 minutes but it is what it is.”
Earlier, Waratahs coach Darren Coleman praised his side’s effort and hailed “juggernaut” No.8 Langi Gleeson for his performance in the six-tries-to-two win.
“He was a juggernaut wasn’t he,” Coleman said. “He’d be sore. Although he comes out the other side of the contacts, there’s a lot of heat coming on his body. He’s just an amazingly powerful athlete.”
Gleeson’s performance would have been noted by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who was in the stands to watch both matches on day two of Super Round.
The 21-year-old came off the bench last week as the Waratahs gave him time to build some match fitness and said during the week that not starting against the Brumbies had stung.
This week the NSW coaches handed him the No.8 jersey, using Charlie Gamble off the bench in a move that paid off in spades as Gamble, Taleni Seu and hooker Tolu Latu injected fresh legs and power into the Waratahs attack. Gleeson was a constant presence with ball in hand, even scoring in the 57th minute before finally being subbed off.
“He showed he can be a big minute player as well,” Coleman said of the second-season professional, who was a Wallabies bolter under Dave Rennie last year.
“He was a little underdone when he came back from Wallabies camp and had a break, so it took him a while to build into those bigger minutes.”
The Waratahs fought back from a 17-10 deficit to pile on five unanswered tries and take the match 46-17.
“We were in a bit of a dark place last week, emotionally, and confidence always gets dented when you don’t do some things well,” he said of the Waratahs’ round one loss to the Brumbies.
“That first half they really got into us and I thought we were tough, but they were tougher, and then they scored again straight after half time. If you looked up then (at the coaches’ box), I would have been pretty nervous.
“I was just really proud of how we stayed in the fight. We stayed in the arm wrestle, stuck to our plan, didn’t lose patience in what our tactical keys were and we rolled over them. It was unreal.”
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