Waratahs find unwanted records against Lions

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs’ winning run is over, with a lacklustre Waratahs outfit losing to the Lions in Sydney, 29-0, in their first scoreless Super Rugby outing.

It was a night of unwanted records for the Waratahs, in their biggest loss against their South African rivals, 10 points greater than their defeat in Johannesburg last year, ending NSW's run of four wins in their past four games.

The Waratahs were keen to measure themselves against a Super Rugby yardstick and the Lions showed them the gap they need to bridge before a month of trans-Tasman matches.

NSW lacked energy in the opening half, though they had the better share of possession and territory, as the Lions fired shot after shot in their own half, ultimately drawing first blood in the 22nd minute, through Madosh Tambwe.

A first-up scrum penalty injected some confidence into the Waratahs' outfit, but there was little else that really sparked any excitement for the hosts in the first half, with handling errors costing them close to the line. 

Tambwe’s was the only score in a tight first half, the Waratahs left to rue some missed opportunities, but buoyed by their record of strong finishes this season.

The Waratahs struggled to find spark against the Lions. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyAny hope of NSW snatching back the momentum was snuffed out when Lions flanker Kwagga Smith went over easily from a five-metre lineout.

Though it was an ultimately controversial score, with replays after the conversion attempt showing Smith clearly lost the ball.

As divisive as that try might be post-match, it certainly wasn’t game-deciding, with the Lions taking more and more possession and Harold Vorster scoring a 50th-minute try to put the Waratahs in a 19-point hole.

The action was parked in Waratahs’ territory in the eight minutes after that, with the Lions opting for multiple scrums to try and generate another score and break the Waratahs down.

To the Waratahs’ credit, they showed some grit they wouldn’t have in recent seasons, clinching a critical penalty with the Lions breathing down their necks.

Then when they finally managed a break, another mistake cost them deep in attack, with Lions hooker Malcolm Marx pouncing in the ruck as well.

It was a fiery finish to the clash at Alianz Stadium. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Waratahs looked to Taqele Naiyaravoro to try and create a miracle, but the in-form winger couldn’t break free.

Their scrum continued to give them some joy, as they won a turnover at the scrum, and another chance to finally get themselves on the board, but a knock on and then an intercept snuffed out that chance.

A 71st-minute Elton Jantjies penalty made the margin the Liions' biggest against the Waratahs, in their first win in Sydney, and the Waratahs never really looked like scoring as the minutes ticked down.

When Marnus Schoeman went over in the 77th minute, all hope was completely gone for the Waratahs, who now find themselves in a precarious position.

It's a brutal wake up call for the Australian conference leaders, who have a bye before a month of matches against New Zealand teams, against whom they haven't won since May 2016.

RESULT

Waratahs 0

Lions 29

Tries: Tambwe, Smith, Vorster Shoeman

Cons: Jantjies 2

Pens: Jantjies