TOKYO – Israel Folau made history on Saturday as the Waratahs inflicted a nail-biting 31-30 defeat on the Sunwolves, who are fighting for their Super Rugby lives.
The Wallabies star was a constant menace in Tokyo, scoring twice in the first half to finish a free-flowing game as Australia’s highest try-scorer in the competition with a career total of 58 and counting.
The Waratahs, semi-finalists last year and champions in 2014, survived a late scare to bounce back from a heart-breaking 20-19 loss to the Hurricanes in their opening game last weekend.
The Sunwolves, thrashed 45-10 by the Sharks last week, took the lead with a breakaway try after eight minutes, Ryoto Nakamura teeing up Gerhard van den Heever to trundle over in the corner.
The Sydneysiders hit back moments later through Kurtley Beale, but a Hayden Parker penalty restored the home side’s advantage.
A quick-fire Folau double looked to have knocked the stuffing out of the Wolves, only for the Tokyo franchise to snatch a 20-17 halftime lead through another Parker three-pointer and a converted Tom Rowe try.
Parker kept the pressure on with another penalty soon after the break, but Jack Dempsey crashed over and Bernard Foley kicked the extras as the visitors got their noses back in front again.
The Waratahs added seven more points just after the hour mark through a penalty try that saw veteran Sunwolves lock Luke Thompson sent to the sin-bin.
There was a further twist, however, as Van den Heever spotted a gap to score his second try of the game, and Parker’s boot reduced the deficit to a single point with 10 minutes left.
But Parker sliced a late drop goal attempt wide to ensure the Sunwolves, facing an uncertain future as Super Rugby bosses prepare to thrash out the competition’s format in March, failed to register just their seventh win at the start of their fourth season.
Sunwolves 30 – Tries: Gerhard van den Heever (2), Tom Rowe. Conversions: Hayden Parker (3). Penalties: Parker (3).
Waratahs 31 – Tries: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau (2), Jack Dempsey, Penalty Try. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2).
HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Super Rugby Round 2 Sunwolves v Waratahs— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) February 23, 2019
The @NSWWaratahs record their first win of the season, edging out a gutsy @Sunwolves side 31-30 in a thrilling contest in Tokyo.#SuperRugby #SUNvWAR pic.twitter.com/qUy37RHMzG