Waratahs secure conference with record Super score

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs have locked up the Australian conference title and their first finals berth since 2015, with a 77-25 win over the Sunwolves.

A 39th-minute red card for Sunwolves winger Semisi Masirewa gave the Waratahs a game-changing advantage and they made the most of it with 53 second-half points to notch their highest Super Rugby score ever.

The Rebels' loss to the Reds on Friday night meant the Waratahs only had to win to secure a spot in the playoffs. They did it in style in front of a season-high crowd of 18059, with an 12-try thumping of the Sunwolves.

If the Waratahs beat the Brumbies next week in Sydney, they will finish the season in second spot and host a quarter-final. 

Both sides had promised an up-tempo, ball in hand contest and on that count Saturday’s clash delivered in spades.

It was the Sunwolves who scored the first points with a Hayden Parker slotting a penalty, with multiple chances off his boot punishing the Waratahs early on as they piled up four penalties to one.

The Waratahs crossed just three minutes later through prop Sekope Kepu, with a Will Miller break setting up their first chance.

Superstar Sunwolves winger Akihito Yamada turned the first half on its head, pounced on an unlikely chance in the 22nd minute.

The speedster snapped up a kicked that appeared to be on its way into touch, staying just millimetres inside the line himself to score, running around Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley along the way.

Not to be outdone, Waratahs fullback Israel Folau streaked away for a superb individual try just two minutes later, ensuring he made his return from suspension felt.

Yamada stepped up to reply, making a pivotal break and setting up his skipper Michael Leitch for their second, with the backrower fending off Ned Hanigan easily to score.

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Foley set up a Kurtley Beale try with six minutes left in the half, with a long inside pass sparking a chain of hands and putting Beale through a gap.

Folau’s second in the 39th minute was overshadowed the Sunwolves lost a man on the way, with Masirewa sent for a lifting tackle on Foley after the final pass.

Foley had the scoreboard ticking over again in the 42nd minute, with a penalty stretching their lead to nine points.

Edge to edge play from the Waratahs eventually yielded a try in the second 40, with Hanigan redeeming himself to score, before Nick Phipps finished off a Rob Simmons break three minutes later.

When Taqele Naiyaravoro scored a club record 13th 2018 try in the 52nd minute, it looked like the energy had been sapped out of the Sunwolves, until Yamada struck again, outstepping Israel Folau on the edge.

Waratahs centre Curtis Rona replied five minutes later, cracking the 50-point mark for NSW for the fourth time this year, with no. 8 Michael Wells adding another four minutes later.

A yellow card for Fumiaka Tanaka for a suplex-like tackle on Waratahs replacement halfback Jake Gordon gave the Waratahs even more room to work with and mammoth winger Naiyaravoro answered the call with a runaway try, and Alex Newsome made it 10, and 11, for the night.

The Waratahs host the Brumbies in their final regular round clash next week, with a win in that match giving them a chance to host a quarter and semi-final for the first time since 2015..

RESULT

Waratahs 77

Tries: Folau 2, Naiyaravoro 2, Newsome 2, Kepu, Beale, Hanigan, Phipps, Rona, Wells

Cons: Foley 7

Pens: Foley

Sunwolves 25

Tries: Yamada 2, Leitch

Cons: Parker 2

Pens: Parker 2

Yellow Cards: Tanaka (69')

Red Cards: Masirewa (39')