On a windy day in Tokyo, the Sunwolves were looking for their first win and the Waratahs looking for 5 points to chase the Rebels’ top spot on the conference table.
The first try of the game came in the fifth minute. The ball went to Big T in space and he monstered three tacklers before passing infield and Gordon ended up with the score. Foley converted for 7-0. After a period of good pressure, the Sunwolves equalised through Little for 7-7. The Waratahs kicked a penalty for 10-7 and then off a centrefield scrum the Waratahs ran a nice play with Rona running through untouched while the Sunwolves focussed on Big T outside.
The Sunwolves put the Waratahs under pressure after a lineout win and a grubber but one poor pass to no one and Hanigan picked up, passed to Fitzpatrick, on to to Miller who scored. Converted for 24-7. Little was starring for the Sunwolves and he made a long run and handed off to Wykes who scored. Converted for 24-14. The game was very open, with 38 points scored in the last 15 minutes.
Sunwolves scored a dodgy breakdown penalty to get it to 24-17. A good period of attacking play by the Sunwolves, followed by a good period for the Tahs, was finished off by Gordon with a snipe from the scrumbase. 31-17
The Sunwolves had a long period of attacking play, stopped eventually by a dominant Beale tackle and Foley clearance to halfway. A few minutes of blitzkrieg attack by the Waratahs finally saw Hegarty score, converted for 38-17 at half time. Twenty-one points running with a fifteen point breeze was probably good.
First score in the second half was from a period of sustained Waratah pressure. Good technique off a rolling maul allowed Hooper to score. Unconverted for 43-17 because Foley tried to keep it low into the wind and put it under the crossbar for a soccer score. After a long period of Sunwolves attack, Masirewa finally went in to score for 43-22. By this time there had been a number of replacements, including Foketi for Hegarty, Holloway for Miller, Ryan for Kepu, Clark for Rona.
In the last 20 minutes the Waratahs scrum was very inconsistent, but won an important tight head in front of their posts. Foketi made a miraculous tackle over the line to hold the Sunwolves up, Hooper got a yellow card for doing what the Sunwolves had done all night and the Sunwolves scored off a scrum. The Sunwolves converted with a drop kick to speed up the game, to take it to 43-29. The next Sunwolves score was ruled out for a forward pass and Taqele Naiyaravoro put it beyond doubt with two impressive runs. The first was 30 metres down the left wing, past three defenders, the ball went across to the other side and then back again for Big T to run 20 metres to score. 50-29 was where it finished.
The Waratahs did enough to win with their first bonus point this year, but they were not greatly convincing. Without Taqele Naiyaravoro as an attacking nuclear weapon they would have struggled to get the points. They picked a very light pack to increase their mobility to counter the mobility of the Sunwolves. But the forwards hardly made any progress all night; next week they play the Reds with their huge scrum and big defensive locks and it could get very ugly.
People keep saying that the Sunwolves this year are a much better team than they were last year, but I really don’t see it. To me there is no improvement at all and I struggle to see which game they might win to break their duck. They score about 24 points every game and haven’t won one yet because they don’t have the ability to stop other teams scoring.
Angus Gardiner is a top line referee but I was regularly frustrated tonight because he gave penalties to the Sunwolves for Waratahs holding on long after the ruck was fully formed and the Sunwolves should have been called on to release. In a closer game it could easily have made a difference to the result.
The Waratahs had a comfortable win and gained a precious bonus point but tougher games will come their way, even before the month they have playing NZ teams.
The Game Changer
Between the 14th and 18th minute the Waratahs scored two converted tries and were not headed for the rest of the game.
The G&GR MOTM
Taqele Naiyaravoro was the difference between the two teams and was clearly best on ground.
Apart from Naiyaravoro, and Gordon no one looked special tonight.
Crowd: Not available.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Naiyaravoro, Hooper, Hegarty, Gordon (2), Miller, Rona
Conversions: Foley (6)
Penalties: Foley (1)
Tries: Himeno, Masirewa, Wykes, Little
Conversions: Parker, Tamura(2)
Cards & citings: