Sunwolves capitalise on Mason struggles, Crusaders back on song
The Waratahs' decision to rest Bernard Foley backfired dramatically as they went down 31-29 to the Sunwolves in Newcastle on Friday.
Semisi Masirewa scored three tries to help the Japanese franchise - who will be axed from Super Rugby after the 2020 season - secure a first win on Australian soil, four weeks on from their historic victory over the Chiefs in New Zealand.
Yet the contest was a personal ordeal for Mack Mason, the Waratahs stand-in fly-half struggling badly after Foley was left out as part of a rotational policy agreed with the Wallabies.
Mason was replaced after 57 minutes, not long after he had thrown a wild pass that Masirewa pounced upon to complete his hat-trick.
Grant Hattingh also went over for the Sunwolves and Hayden Parker kicked 11 points, while tries from Nick Phipps, Cameron Clark, Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale - who was shifted to fly-half after Mason's withdrawal - proved in vain for the hosts.
The Sunwolves remain bottom of the Australian Conference, but are now just five points behind the Waratahs, who lead the way.
Friday's other fixture saw the Crusaders, whose 19-game winning streak was surprisingly ended by the Waratahs last weekend, bounce back in style with a 32-8 thumping of the Hurricanes, David Havili scoring two tries.
We’ve done it! 32-8 over @Hurricanesrugby in our first win at the Cake Tin since 2012! We can’t wait to be back at home next Saturday night #HURvCRU Copyright https://t.co/6V2PlIawrBpic.twitter.com/yQ5GaEQV11— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) March 29, 2019
Kieran Read was replaced at half-time in his first appearance of the year, after suffering a thigh injury midway through the first half.
Yet the Crusaders overcame that setback and a yellow card for Matt Todd to triumph comfortably and open up a five-point lead over their opponents at the top of the New Zealand Conference.