MATCH REVIEW: Sunwolves v Waratahs - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

MATCH REVIEW: Sunwolves v Waratahs

MATCH REVIEW: Sunwolves v Waratahs

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 Sunwolves had plenty of fans

The Sunwolves had plenty of fans

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.

Jake Gordon is all smiles.

Jake Gordon is all smiles.

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.

Curtis Rona catches a clearance.

Curtis Rona catches a clearance.

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.


Taqele Naiyaravoro was the difference between the two teams and was clearly best on ground.

Wallaby watch

Apart from Naiyaravoro, and Gordon no one looked special tonight.

The Details

Crowd: Not available.

Score & Scorers

Waratahs 50
Tries: Naiyaravoro, Hooper, Hegarty, Gordon (2), Miller, Rona
Conversions: Foley (6)
Penalties: Foley (1)
Sunwolves 29 
Tries: Himeno, Masirewa, Wykes, Little
Conversions: Parker, Tamura(2)
Penalties: Tamura(1)

Cards & citings:

Hooper (yellow)

  • 2bluesfan

    Thanks Hawko. It must have been a difficult review to write given how difficult it was to just watch that very disappointing performance by the Tahs.If they can’t dominate the Sunwolves what hope do they have against any of the Kiwi sides? I suspect the match against the Reds will turn into another Aussie derby (and that’s not a good thing).

    • Jack Mallick

      Let in a couple of soft tries by the Sunwolves but wouldn’t call it disappointing. Would you be happy if the final score was 57-29, or 50-22? Or would it be dominate if they kept a 21 point buffer throughout the game?

  • Brumby Runner

    Thanks Hawko. The Tahs are arguably the top Aussie conference team, having beaten each of the other conference sides they’ve met. Puts them ahead of the Rebels for mine.

    They were never in doubt against the Sunwolves and would have won without TN too although he does have a huge impact.

    But they did get the better of Gardner’s decisions in many ways. The pass to TN in the first try was, I believe, distinctly forward and should have stopped the movement there. The handoff to Rob Simmons for Hegarty’s try right on half time was also forward, and the try should have been disallowed. Three times in the first half, Gardner pulled up the Sunwolves lineout for a not straight throw, but didn’t once rule against the Tahs in the second half when twice their throw was just as affected by the wind and was just as crooked.

    On the other hand, he got Michael Hooper’s YC right. Hooper was sitting on the ground with both hands holding the ball in the ruck. Gardner might have missed some similar offences otherwise, but that would just be typical of him. He is not a great referee.

    Anyway, The Tahs remain the best chance of breaking the NZ duck this year, with TN on one wing and Folau on the other being the keys gaining some dominance.

  • Mattchoo

    Hey Hawko, my thanks also for the write up. Clearly the win was convincing enough in the end but I was pretty nervous for much of the match. The Sunwolves used the grubber kick behind our backs successfully and much better than the Rebels attempted to do the week before. I was very grateful for the late scores in the first half as I could see the Sunwolves coming out full of confidence after the break with the wind behind them. Even in the second half their were times when I thought we had a safe breathing space only for the Sunwolves to get uncomfortably close. This was a game with so much to lose for the Waratahs as everyone expects them to win (no-one wants to be the team that the Sunwolves defeat – but I think it’ll happen for some poor team this year)! A win albeit with so much to work on before the Reds next week at SCG. Miller had a good run on game I thought. By the way, looking forward to seeing how they handle the seating allocation and also where they place the field / lines on the oval SCG. Will it be closer to one side? Will they open up the Members stand?

  • Crescent

    My biggest issue was the very poor defensive effort from the Tahs – too many tackles targeting the upper body that were readily shrugged off. The Reds will exploit this weakness readily, and the Kiwi teams will also make plenty of cheap breaks if they persist.

    I get they are trying to shut down the off load, but if they cannot make the hit stick in the first instance, they are just creating space for the opposition.

    Have to stop the runner and trust your team mates to protect against the support runners.

    Outside that frustration, a passable effort with the cattle that we have.

  • Braveheart81

    A scrappy win no doubt but the Tahs did what they had to in getting out of the game with a bonus point win. Taqele was fantastic in attack again.

    The set piece from the Tahs was pleasing. The lineout is consistently good and the scrum has improved a lot since the start of the year. The Reds pose a huge challenge at scrum time though.

    Lazy defence was certainly an issue for the Tahs. They need to tighten that up this week against the Reds.

NSW Waratahs

Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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