NSW Waratahs fall to Blues at Brookie

Darren Walton
Folau runs during the Waratahs loss. Pic: Getty

Australia's Super Rugby drought continues after the NSW Waratahs crashed to a 24-21 loss to the lowly Blues in Sydney.

Not even the return of an inspired Israel Folau could save the Waratahs from suffering a 38th straight defeat for Australian teams against New Zealand opposition in Super Rugby.

Topping the Australian conference and up against the cellar dwellers from the New Zealand conference, the Waratahs had been well fancied to snap the near-two-year run of losses in trans-Tasman encounters.

The Blues had won just two of their nine matches in 2018 to be all but out of finals contention.

But they arrived at Brookvale Oval on Saturday seemingly intent on not being the first Kiwi outfit since May 27, 2016, to succumb to an Australian franchise.

Despite enjoying 75 per cent of territory and the lion's share of possession, the Waratahs were never in front.

Probing desperately for the match winner, the Tahs peppered the Blues line in the final few minutes only for Folau to be unable to reel in Kurtley Beale's cross-field kick as a try beckoned.

Unfortunately for Paddy Ryan in his 100th Super Rugby game, the front-rower spilt the ball on the last play of the match as the Waratahs let slip a golden opportunity to break their own seven-match losing run against New Zealand rivals.

Folau was making his comeback after five weeks out with a hamstring injury and threatened the Blues virtually every time he touched the ball.

Alas, the Waratahs played catch-up all night after handing the Blues a 10-point start.

Beale turned over possession five metres from his own line in the opening minutes and the Blues quickly spread the ball left for Rieko Ioane to crash over.

Stephen Perofeta's conversion made it 7-0 and only an incredible try-saving tackle from Waratahs winger Cam Clark on the runaway Ioane prevented the Blues doubling their advantage.

A Perofeta penalty shot the visitors out to 10-0 before the Waratahs finally gained a foothold into the match after the 24th-minute sin-binning of Blues flanker Dalton Papalii for a high tackle on the seemingly try-bound Clark.

From the ensuing lineout win, Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick cashed in a Waratahs driving maul and Bernard Foley's conversion reduced the deficit to three points.

Despite being a man down, though, the Blues continued to stretch the Waratahs defence and man-of-the-match Ioane's midfield break set up a five-pointer to winger Tumua Manu.

Sekope Kepu gave the Waratahs renewed hope heading to halftime when he dived over in the corner to leave Daryl Gibson's side trailing 18-14 at the break.

But two more Perofeta penalties restored the Blues' 10-point buffer, with Michael Hooper's try under the posts off a lovely inside pass from Beale with eight minutes remaining enough to save the Waratahs.