The Waratahs kept their play-off hopes alive when they cruised to a convincing 57-12 victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.
In a thrilling all-round display, the 2014 champions had too much attacking firepower for their hosts who, despite a promising start, faded badly as the match progressed.
The Waratahs outscored their hosts by nine tries to none and, in doing so, draw level with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference table.
The Brumbies are in the driving seat to qualify as the Australian Conference winners however due to their superior win/loss record.
The Sunwolves’ poor defensive efforts were the root cause of their woes and this result keeps them firmly entrenched at the bottom of the Africa One Conference table, noticeably struggling without a number of injured key players in Shota Horie and Akihito Yamada.
There was plenty of end-to-end action during the opening exchanges with both sides giving the ball plenty of air. One such move yielded the opening points in the 11th minute when Rob Horne, on his 100th Super Rugby appearance, tore the Sunwolves defence to shreds with a telling break from just inside his half.
He was hauled in by the cover defence deep inside the home side’s 22, but did well to get a pass out to Will Skelton. The big second-row shifted the ball to Michael Hooper and he offloaded to scrum-half Matt Lucas, who dived over next to the uprights.
Ten minutes later, the Sunwolves struck back with two penalties in quick succession from Yu Tamura and Riaan Viljoen, the latter one a monster effort from 58 metres out after Paddy Ryan was blown up for a high tackle.
Shortly afterwards the Waratahs were reduced to 14 men when Taqele Naiyaravoro was yellow carded for a cynical foul on Mifiposeti Paea, and Tamura slotted the resulting penalty to give his side the lead for the only time in the match.
The visitors didn’t take long to respond, Jack Dempsey crossing for their second try after a powerful run in the Sunwolves’ 22, but Tamura soon suceeded with his third penalty after Tatafu Polota-Nau strayed offside on defence.
The Waratahs finished the half stronger however, and tries from Israel Folau and Andrew Kellaway meant they held a 26-12 lead at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart, Reece Robinson crossed for the Waratahs’ fifth try after Folau and Kellaway combined to put him into space and two minutes later Robinson ran onto a pass from Polota-Nau before crossing for his second five-pointer.
The Sunwolves offered little in response and were soon standing under their posts again, after Lucas crossed for his second try in the 57th minute, before Matt Carraro made full use of the home side’s poor defending to score the visitors’ eighth.
The Waratahs continued to dominate and Naiyaravoro made up for his earlier indiscretion when he powered his way over the whitewash from close quarters in the 71st minute.
Although the Sunwolves tried manfully to get over the try-line for a consolation try, they committed too many handling errors which prevented them from achieving that feat as the suffered another bruising loss in their final home game in Tokyo this season.
Pens: Tamura 3, Viljoen
Tries: Robinson 2, Lucas 2, Dempsey, Folau, Kellaway, Carraro, Naiyaravoro
Cons: Foley 5, Horwitz
Yellow Card: Naiyaravoro
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Mifiposeti Paea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (c), 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Taiyo Ando, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Futoshi Mori, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Shokel Kin, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Hajime Yamashita
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Matt Lucas, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Aki Aso (Japan), Noriaki Hashimoto (Japan)
TMO: Takashi Hareda (Japan)