Waratahs hopeful despite nervous wait


As the end-of-regular-season beers flowed in the Waratahs sheds at an empty Eden Park, there was a strange feeling among the playing group.They had come within a whisker of making history and becoming the second Waratahs team in 20 years to taste success at the ground.However, a lack of certainty about whether or not they will even still be in the running come Saturday evening was most definitely on their minds.A bonus-point win would have created genuine belief they could sneak through. A win? Some hope. Possibly. But a 34-28 loss, in which they grabbed a bonus point, was little solace for the gritty performance they put in.The fate of their season now lies with the Brumbies who, barring an upset for the ages, will progress provided they win or avoid losing to the Force by eight or more points.Coach Daryl Gibson conceded the chances of NSW holding on to top spot of the Australian conference were “pretty small”, however there was some optimism from deep within the Waratahs sheds.”We take tomorrow night with a grain of salt,” said captain Michael Hooper. “We watch that and see what happens. We’ve got to celebrate the end of the round and there’s some fantastic achievements. There’s a few beers to be shared.”Dave Dennis agreed.”You can’t concede this early,” he said. “There’s a chance, that’s reality. Until we find out what happens in Canberra we’re not going to stop believing.”Had there been a comprehensive win and the Eden Park hoodoo kicked right in the teeth, Waratahs players might have come together to watch the Brumbies game. Instead, they will watch in hope by themselves, and as one player put it, “probably with a six pack in the fridge”.”Always hopeful,” said second-rower Dean Mumm. “I’d love them [Western Force] do it. Who knows, anything can happen. Fingers crossed, we’re in at the moment. We’ll see how it goes on Saturday night.”There was plenty to celebrate afterwards given this was probably the Waratahs final game of a season which yielded eight wins and seven losses. Departing veterans Dave Dennis and Wycliff Palu were in the thick of it, enjoying being part of the team they have served so admirably, possibly for the last time.”Regardless of this last round I’ve really tried to enjoy this season for what it is, I’ve always tried to enjoy my rugby here,” Dennis said.Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who played his junior footy with Dennis in western Sydney, made a point of taking in the moment with not only teammates but a few great mates who he has seen go through so much. “All the boys can take a page out of his book in terms of just what it takes to go through adversity,” Polota-Nau said. “Two knee reconstructions and people would give up straight away, but for him [Dennis] to go through it and come up on top, what a great story. You just don’t see the pain and agony that they’re in until you spend time with their families. They’re the type of characteristics you want to play for. It was a pleasure play alongside them.”

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