The Waratahs went from 29-0 leaders to 31-29 losers in Christchurch in the space of 50 minutes.
What are we talking about after that?
1. Official misses prove costly
First things first - we’re not here to throw referees under the bus, and it took more than a 14-7 penalty count for the Waratahs to concede 31 unanswered points after a 29-0 start. That said, there has to be questions asked as to why two seemingly clear offences went unnoticed and unpunished by the referees panel in Christchurch. A Joe Moody elbow to the throat of Kurtley Beale was picked up on social media, but the TMO did not intervene at the time. A tip tackle on Michael Wells in the final play of the game was also missed by the referee, despite Michael Hooper requesting referee Ben O’Keeffe refer it to the TMO. That all the referees were New Zealanders raised plenty of questions after the match, and though it’s not unusual for referees to officiate their own nations in Super Rugby given the logistics and costs involved in travel, but having all the referees from the same country may need to be looked at.
2. Boot on ball could be better
The Waratahs showed some positive signs against the Crusaders but their kicking to touch let them down at crucial times. Twice in the first half, they failed to find touch when they desperately needed to and at least once it put the Crusaders in an incredibly dangerous position. Bernard Foley’s two missed kicks at goal late in the game cost the Waratahs a chance to, firstly, extend their lead, and then snatch back the lead.
3. Crusaders never down and out
They’re the defending champions and have made Christchurch a fortress, so it’s no surprise the Crusaders worked their way back from a 29-0 deficit to beat the Waratahs. It was the biggest comeback in Super Rugby history from the Crusaders, who seem to find a way to win no matter what.
4. Tick for Waratahs' ticker
One thing the Waratahs showed on Saturday night is if anyone is going to beat a New Zealand team, it’s probably going to be them. They didn’t have anywhere the number of basic errors in Christchurch that they’ve had in recent weeks, and they showed they can get the jump on the best side in the competition. Two yellow cards could have led to a Crusaders massacre, but the Waratahs limited the points when they were a man down, and kept fighting against a lopsided penalty count and after blowing some chances. They could have, and probably should have, won this game, but that it wasn’t a blow out is a big tick for their ticker.
5. Folau gets a frosty reception
Israel Folau was on fire on the field but the fullback had an ice-cold reception from New Zealand fans. A protester greeted him at Christchurch Airport on Friday and the crowd audibly booed him when he had the ball. Though his recent controversies don’t appear to have affected the team as such, this might just be something he, and they, have to deal with.