The NSW Waratahs have crashed back to earth with one of their most humiliating Super Rugby defeats.
A week after ending the record-setting 19-match winning streak of the mighty Crusaders, the Waratahs slumped to a shock 31-29 loss to the bottom-placed and soon-to-be extinct Sunwolves on Friday night.
The Tokyo-based franchise piled on four tries in 20 minutes either side of half-time to stun the Waratahs after trailing 12-3 early on at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium..
Winger Semisi Masirewa, with a hat-trick, was the hero for the Sunwolves as the Waratahs paid the price for a sloppy, complacent performance.
It was sure to be a long bus trip back to Sydney for Daryl Gibson’s side, especially any Wallabies wannabes who picked a bad night to underwhelm in front of Rugby Australia’s new director of performance Scott Johnson.
Only hours earlier, on his first day in the job, Johnson spoke positively to the Australian media about the the Wallabies’ World Cup chances later this year in Japan.
But Johnson could not possibly have been impressed by what he saw in the Waratahs as he watched the game alongside RA boss Raelene Castle.
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Coach Gibson’s decision to rest star playmaker Bernard Foley, under the Wallabies’ rotation policy, backfired spectacularly with fill-in five-eighth Mack Mason having a shocker.
Gibson had little choice but to hook Mason 57 minutes into the contest after a series of howlers from the the 24-year-old rookie.
The last straw came when Mason threw a wild pass on the halfway line that Masirewa scooped up before racing 40 metres for his third try that gifted the Sunwolves an ultimately match-winning nine-point buffer.
Kurtley Beale did his best to reel in the deficit after moving to five-eighth, but not even his converted try a quarter of an hour from fulltime could save the Waratahs’ blushes.
The writing was on the wall for the Tahs as the trudged to the sheds trailing the competition cellar dwellers 17-15 at halftime.
The Australian conference leaders completely fell asleep after early tries to Nick Phipps and Cam Clark earned them a 12-3 lead inside 15 minutes.
Phipps kicking in to touch following a scrum win to allow the Sunwolves an attacking lineout in the shadows of halftime was symptomatic of the Waratahs’ malaise as the visitors claimed the lead through tries to Masirewa and lock Grant Hattigh.
The Waratahs briefly regained the lead with a try to skipper Michael Hooper shortly after the break.
But the Sunwolves, who only last week were told they would be axed from the competition after next year, were not to be denied only their second-ever win outside of Japan.
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