Sunwolves vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs cracked the half-ton in Tokyo against the Sunwolves.

What are we talking about after that win?

1. Tahs in touch with Aussie conference lead

The Waratahs came into 2018 under the radar and they’re slowly but surely building their reputation. They’ve beaten all the Australian conference teams that have come their way, with just the Reds yet to play, and are showing more connectivity each week. There’s still plenty more improvement to go, and the caveat that they are yet to meet a Kiwi team,  but NSW have already tallied as many wins in six matches as they did in the entire season last year and have the potential to crack the top eight. They’re one point shy of the Rebels after this round, with a crucial derby to come against the Reds next week. 

2. Naiyaravoro racking up the minutes

Taqele Naiyaravoro is a man mountain and one of the Waratahs’ chief destroyers, when he’s at 100 per cent capacity. Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said this week he wanted more minutes from the speedster as the season went on, and he showed he had the capacity for that on Saturday afternoon. Though a defensive blip allowed Semisi Masirewa to score a super Sunwolves try, Naiyaravoro was one of the Waratahs’ best, tallying 184 run metres off eight carries and beat 10 defenders along the way. Fair stats for someone who could barely crack the Waratahs team in 2017 for being unfit.

3. Sunwolves have spark

Semisi Masirewa scored a super try for the Sunwolves. Photo: getty ImagesIt’s a credit to the Sunwolves’ attack as much as anything else that the Waratahs had to work to earn a bonus point in Tokyo. The Japanese side showed some spark, particularly through inside centre Michael Little, and that kind of rugby will make fans want to watch them play. Their defence needs some work, but that will come with consistent selection - something the Sunwolves have certainly not had the luxury of  in 2018.

4. Gordon growing as a nine

Jake Gordon gave Nick Phipps a solid fight for a starting jersey last year and it won't be easy for the injured Wallabies halfback to make his way back into the 15 just yet. Gordon was sensational in attack for the Waratahs, scoring a double and keeping the frantic pace of the match under control. After a concussion kept him out for two matches, he has jumped straight back into his early season form.

5. Tahs need to get in line

The Waratahs made the Sunwolves pay at almost every opportunity on Saturday but they also coughed up a few chances through their own discipline issues. The Waratahs finished on the wrong end of a 15-3 penalty count in Tokyo, and though there's always discussion about certain calls, that lopsided tally is not a good sign. The Sunwolves managed to get on top at a couple of scrums and Michael Hooper was yellow-carded late in the game for a cynical foul, which was unlucky but something they just didn't need. Those are the kinds of things that sting against the Sunwolves but will absolutely destroy teams against New Zealand sides.