The Waratahs have scrapped a 31-30 win over the Sunwolves in what was an unconvincing performance from the boys in blue. The match was an open contest in which both teams let the ball fly throughout the hands, with the Waratahs seemingly the more impressive team with ball in hand in the first half.
However, the Waratahs were ill-disciplined in defence, allowing some soft penalties in their own half which kept the Sunwolves in the contest throughout the match. This was coupled with lazy defence in periods which put the Japanese side in a perfect position to win the match, which they ultimately should of, with Hayden Parker missing a field goal 20 metres out, right in front to allow the Waratahs to escape with the win.
All in all, a less than impressive performance from the Waratahs who will feel like they stole victory in a match which they were expected to trounce and need to do some serious soul searching in the bye week before they take on the Reds.
The Waratahs started the match strongly, breaking the Sunwolves initially with a nice intercept from Jack Dempsey positioning them in the Sunwolves half. They looked certain to score when Foley found Curtis Rona on the wing, however, he was stopped on the try-line by a solid cover tackle by the Sunwolves winger Masirewa.
The first points of the match would soon come when a set piece play saw Rob Simmons threw a perfect pass…into the hands of Ryoto Nakamura who ran 70 metres before handing it off to Gerhard van den Heever to put the Sunwolves up 7-0.
The Waratahs would respond immediately with Kurtley Beale snatching a muffed kick from Shane Gates on the play after the restart to level the contest at 7-7.
For the 2nd week in a row, the Waratahs seemed to struggle at scrum time, conceding a penalty right on the Sunwolves goal line and a further penalty placed the Japanese side in perfect range for their sharpshooting Kiwi flyhalf Hayden Parker to put the Sunwolves back in front 10-7.
The Waratahs looked impressive with ball in hand in the first half, especially Israel Folau, who was dangerous whenever he touched the ball. Folau would proceed to take over the match, crossing the line twice in 10 minutes after two great runs and passes from Karmichael Hunt, with his second try being the most impressive after beating three Sunwolves. Foley would continue his kicking woes from last week, missing both conversions to leave the score at 17-10.
Despite their dominance in attack, it would be the Sunwolves who would lead at the end of the half after Tom Rowe broke some lazy Waratah defence to put the Sunwolves up 20-17 after an earlier Parker penalty goal.
The Waratahs would continue to be hampered by a lack of discipline at the start of the second half, with Parker’s boot extending the Sunwolves lead lead out to 23-17.
However, their class with ball in hand would show as Jack Dempsey continued his strong return from injury, driving over the line after some nice patience in attack which saw him score after 16 phases. Foley would put the NSW side in front after seeming to find his kicking boots at half time, nailing the conversion from the sideline to put them up 23-22
The match would turn into a grinding encounter after this try, with both teams enjoying time attempting to break over the advantage line, although a lack of ball control would stifle any real opportunities for points.
The Waratahs would finally break through after constant pressure on the back of a refreshing attitude change that saw them back their forwards and their line out, which somehow ended up as a nine-man lineout include Folau and Ashley-Cooper. This would result in multiple penalties to the men in blue and ultimately a penalty try and a yellow card to Luke Thompson.
This should have sealed the game, however, the Waratahs, as they seem to do far too often, let the Sunwolves back into the contest after some lazy passages of defence saw Van den Heever cross for his second to put the Sunwolves within one.
The last 10 minutes of this match has aged myself (and I suspect the majority of Waratahs fans) at least 5 years, with the Sunwolves having multiple attacks on the Waratahs goal-line. The final moments of the match saw the Sunwolves position themselves in front of the posts, before Parker made his first mistake of the game with the boot, missing the attempt at the drop goal after strong pressure from Hunt, giving the Waratahs the win 31-30.
The Turning Point
This match was up in the air until the end with no one real turning point. However, the consistent pressure from the Waratahs forwards on the Sunwolves line to earn the penalty try and the pressure from Karmichael Hunt on the drop kick attempt from Parker to win the match the key moments of the match.
The GAGR MOTM
Toss up between Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt for Man of the Match, both were excellent with the ball in hand and the Waratahs must look to get both involved more to improve their performances. Hunt was especially crucial in putting pressure on the last minute drop goal, although some poor defensive choices, especially for Van den Heever’s second try, means I couldn’t make him the outright choice.
Most of the Wallaby contingency played some solid football at periods, still plenty to improve on in terms of discipline and defence. Jack Dempsey continues to look strong in his return from a hamstring injury and did his hopes of a shot at a gold jersey no harm.
Tries: van den Heever 2, Rowe
Cons: Parker 2
Pens: Parker 3
Yellow card: Thompson (63’)
Tries: Folau 2, Beale, Dempsey, Penalty Try
Cons: Foley 2