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Waratahs join the Reds in becoming first-round fodder for New Zealand opposition in inaugural trans-Tasman tournament

By AAP

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It could be a long five weeks for Australia’s Super Rugby sides after the NSW Waratahs joined the Queensland Reds as first-round fodder for New Zealand opposition in the inaugural trans-Tasman tournament. Winless in the recently completed Super Rugby AU competition, the Waratahs endured a ninth-straight defeat on Friday night, succumbing 64-48 to the Hurricanes in a Sydney try-fest. 

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The SCG shellacking came after the newly-crowned Australian champion Reds suffered a 40-19 drubbing at the hands of the Highlanders in Dunedin. “How do you score 48 points and lose? It’s unacceptable,” said Waratahs interim co-coach Chris Whitaker after the drubbing against the Hurricanes.

The pair of heavy defeats, coming against New Zealand’s bottom two finishers in Super Rugby Aotearoa, is an ominous sign for Australia’s five franchises – especially the Waratahs. Once a Super Rugby powerhouse, the Tahs face the grim prospect of going through an entire season winless for the first time after failing to convert a first-half lead against the Hurricanes into a desperately needed victory.

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Wooden spooners in the Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Hurricanes piled on 52 points after trailing 17-12 midway through a first-half where fly-half Ruban Love was cleared of a serious neck injury after being escorted off just three minutes into the game. 

The last-versus-last encounter was hardly a spectacle for defence, with 90 points amassed in the first hour alone. A Harry Johnson-Holmes second-half double – which made the 24-year-old the Waratahs’ most prolific try-scoring prop in history with nine five-pointers – at one point pulled the home side back to within nine points of the Highlanders.

But with Jordie Barrett, Dane Coles, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Brayden Iose, Pepesana Patafilo and Asafo Aumua all crossing the stripe to follow doubles for Billy Proctor and Julian Savea, the Hurricanes were always in control. Jack Maddocks’ long-range effort for the Tahs after the full-time siren was the 17th try of the match. 

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“I haven’t played in a game like that in a long time,” said Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles. Waratahs captain Jake Gordon hopes he never plays in one like it ever again. “Attacking wise, we’re starting to hit our straps,” Gordon said.

“We’re still leaking far too many points and giving away too many silly penalties. Defence is a real issue at the moment. Players have got to take ownership of that. We really need to draw a line in defence and put an edge back there.”

Hurricanes coach Jason Holland was just happy to be returning to Wellington with a bonus point. “Which is a nice start to the Trans-Tasman,” Holland said. “So you’re happy with the result but we’ll certainly be picking apart that video.”

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Waratahs join the Reds in becoming first-round fodder for New Zealand opposition in inaugural trans-Tasman tournament

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