Protected needed ... Berrick Barnes. Photo: Getty Images
ALAN GAFFNEY'S many years coaching in Australia, Ireland and Britain have taught him that teams crucify themselves if they mess up their attacking opportunities.
That's why for the NSW backs coach, the loss to the Brumbies in Canberra last Saturday night was so excruciating.
Attacking bungles and silly options, particularly in the opening 25 minutes, ruined any hope of the Waratahs taking a substantial lead and then applying the pressure on the Brumbies. Instead, a defensive lapse before half-time gave the Brumbies momentum and the Waratahs eventually suffered a substantial 17-point loss.
Gaffney hopes the Waratahs learnt from that experience and become more judicious in their attacking philosophy - otherwise they have no hope of making the finals.
''We can't go through a game playing with gay abandon,'' Gaffney said yesterday. ''We do want to get the ball wide and be expansive. There are times to do that but also times not to do that. The other night, there were times where we just threw the ball away.
''There was some really good rugby in those first 20 minutes but we did throw the ball away four times in their 22 metres - ridiculously, at times. That was never what we intended to do. We were instead supposed to be patient and play.''
The former Ireland backs coach argued it was time for five-eighth Berrick Barnes to be given better protection from his teammates, prompting the promotion of Daniel Halangahu off the bench and Adam Ashley-Cooper to stand beside him at inside centre for most of the set moves. It won't surprise if Halangahu and Ashley-Cooper flit between No.12 and No.15, depending on whether the team is attacking or defending. But for most of the match against the Bulls, Ashley-Cooper will be Barnes's right-hand man.
Gaffney believed Barnes in Canberra ''played well but wasn't given a lot of support''.
''He definitely got us beyond the advantage line on a lot of occasions but, unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of that,'' Gaffney said.