Kurtley Beale scored an opportunistic try in an underwhelming Waratahs’ performance in Tokyo.
  • NSW edge past Sunwolves 31-30 in Tokyo
  • Captain Michael Hooper unhappy with outing

Captain Michael Hooper has accused his NSW Waratahs of trying to play like the Harlem Globetrotters after scraping to an unimpressive 31-30 Super Rugby win over the Sunwolves. A record-breaking double from Israel Folau helped the Waratahs survive an enormous fright in Tokyo on Saturday, with the fast-finishing hosts coming painfully close to pulling off an upset.

The Sunwolves were only denied victory when five-eighth Hayden Parker skewed a late dropped-goal attempt. Under pressure from Karmichael Hunt, Parker could not land his attempt from straight in front of the posts, ending a game in which the Kiwi’s accurate goalkicking kept the Sunwolves in touch.

The visitors scored five tries to three but ill-discipline and poor handling let them down, as was the case in last week’s opening 20-19 loss to the Hurricanes. Hooper said his team were guilty of thinking it would come easily against opponents they had thrashed 77-25 last year. Their average winning margin in three previous matches against the Sunwolves was 40 points.

“I think we potentially just tried to score some Harlem Globetrotter tries, which is not what we want to do,” Hooper said. “We want to build phases, put them under pressure and we didn’t do that. They capitalised on a lot of mistakes that we produced and then also put together some really good phases to keep us under pressure.”

The Waratahs were forced to spend most of the last 10 minutes defending grimly after winger Gerhard van den Heever’s second try pulled the competition’s wooden spoon favourites to within a point. They missed 23 of 76 attempted tackles, conceding more than 600 running metres to the Sunwolves, while their scrum back-pedalled in worrying fashion early on.

Wallabies fullback Folau rescued his team with some surging runs, crossing twice within five minutes midway through the first half. The first came from a slick Hunt offload while the second was typical Folau, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake. It lifted the 29-year-old to 58 Super Rugby tries, one ahead of former Brumbies great Joe Roff for the most by an Australian. Folau sits one try behind record holder, retired Blues flyer Doug Howlett.

The visitors’ other first-half try was an opportunistic effort from inside centre Kurtley Beale. Back-rower Jack Dempsey burrowed over soon after the break, followed by a penalty try as the Sunwolves conceded a series of infringements on their line. The performance leaves plenty to mull for Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, whose team sit out a bye next week.