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History boys: Sullivan heroics as Blues sink Waratahs

Zarn Sullivan of the Blues celebrates kicking the winning field goal after the siren during the round 15 Super Rugby Pacific match between the NSW Waratahs and the Blues at Leichhardt Oval

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 28: Zarn Sullivan of the Blues celebrates kicking the winning field goal after the siren during the round 15 Super Rugby Pacific match between the NSW Waratahs and the Blues at Leichhardt Oval on May 28, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Blues edge NSW Waratahs 17-20 in a historic Trans-Tasman Super Rugby Pacific clash at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney.

Zarn Sullivan kicked a last-gasp drop-kick to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as the Blues sunk the stunned Waratahs.

The 21-year-old fullback raised his arms with delight before the ball even sailed through the posts, and his teammates mobbed him as the home crowd stood shell-shocked.

Minutes earlier, Tane Edmed landed a last-minute penalty to level this enthralling contest.


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There was to be no Golden Point Extra Time. Sullivan – like Beauden Barrett last weekend against the Brumbies – dropped deep, and landed a match-winning field goal.

The drop goal claimed a historic 13th Super Rugby win in a row, surpassing the 12 wins on the trot by the 1997 title-winning side.

The three-time champions finished top of the Super Rugby Pacific table. The Waratahs wait on the Western Force versus Hurricanes to see who they play in the quarter-finals.

Sullivan hit two conversions to go with his drop-kick for seven points, while Jock McKenzie landed a lone penalty.

The Blues made 14 changes for this meaningless fixture because the New Zealand outfit has already sewn up the top seed.

Leon MacDonald could rest most of his first-team ahead of the playoffs next weekend.

This energy-sapping defeat sees the Waratahs’ long-standing losing streak increase to seven versus the Auckland side.

Despite this gut-wrenching loss, New South Wales has still qualified for the playoffs.

Mark Nawaqanitawase bagged a brace, but his double was in vain. Edmed kicked a penalty and two conversions for seven points.

Cameron Suafoa and Luke Romano scored nine minutes apart to give the Blues their first lead after 75 minutes.

Edmed levelled at the death before Sullivan’s heroics sucked the life from the shocked stadium.

A tight, low-scoring first stanza saw the Blues score one point more than their yellow card tally in an error-strewn half from both sides

The Blues took a late 3-0 lead after surviving two yellow cards for high tackles.

For the second time this season, the Auckland franchise did not concede any points while down to 13 men.

Adrian Choat and Akira Ioane both saw yellow within a minute and one Waratahs’ attacking series.

Somehow, the hosts could take advantage of a multitude of penalties and have two extra players for nine minutes.

The fact is: that Darren Coleman’s men made too many unforced errors. They probably should have taken the points after spending an age inside the Blues’ 22.

The Tahs eschewed seven chances at three points opting for lineouts and scrums instead.

Jake Gordon’s decision-making will be questioned, especially when the game was scoreless.

Six-man Blues’ scrum won a relieving penalty after Archer Holz got popped by Jordan Lay.

This would have been infuriating for the Tahs’ coaching staff.

Too many handling errors and unforced kicking mistakes cost the home team in critical areas of the field.

MacDonald’s much-changed match-day 23 looked disjointed as the mistakes also mounted for the Kiwis.

Luke Romano, standing in for Dalton Papalii, opted for two shots at goal in the first half. McKenzie missed with his first but made no mistake in the 38th-minute.

The second half burst into life with Mark Nawaqanitawase’s brilliant double, but the Blues stayed in touch through Cameron Suafoa and Luke Romano

Both teams scored back-to-back tries before the boots settled this Trans-Tasman contest.

Things did not go to plan after the break, and the hosts continued to eschew the points; instead, opting for attacking lineouts.

The Waratahs must think they are the Brumbies; their maul has been poor for a few seasons, and the visitors easily kept them at bay.

Michael Hooper was pinged after Ned Hanigan’s indiscretion at the breakdown after the Blues stopped another ineffective driving maul.

Finally, after 50 minutes of trying, the home team struck with a seventh entry into the opposition’s 22.

The Tahs had no points to show for five-and-a-half minutes of pressure inside the ‘red zone’.

But this time was different: they broke the Blues’ resolve when Nawaqanitawase strolled in for the Tahs’ opening score.

Finally, a successful maul set up the five. The Waratahs went wide to Dylan Pietsch.

Pietsch sucked in Sullivan before throwing a long pass to Marky Mark for a walkover score.

Edmed converted from the touchline to make it 7-3 after 52 minutes.

Nawaqanitawase was soon at it again finishing off a slick attack, involving both backs and forwards.

New South Wales had the Kiwis on the back foot, scrambling to cover.

But the ball got recycled quickly to Nawaqanitawase, who finished expertly next to the flag.

Sullivan could not knock the winger into touch, who dotted down with one hand while still in the air and over the chalk. Stunning.

Edmed again landed the touchline conversion to open up a two-score lead.

A thrilling finale sparks scenes as Sullivan pulls a rabbit from a hat to match Beauden Barrett

On 66 minutes, Suafoa crashed over for his maiden Super Rugby try after the driving maul fell short of the try line.

Sullivan, taking over from McKenzie, added the extras to cut the deficit to three.

With less than five to play, the visitors struck a hammer blow.

A monumental 16-phase attack culminated with Romano rumbling his way over two defenders to give his side a late lead.

Sullivan converted to make it a three-point ball game.

There was, however, still time for Edmed to tie the game.

With less than 90 seconds to play, the NSW forwards won a crucial scrum penalty in front of the posts.

This time, Coleman made sure he sent the tee on the field.

More late drama ensued when, after a 14-phase attack, Sullivan stepped deep in the pocket, and slotted a left foot drop goal to make history.

Cue scenes.

Final Score: Waratahs 17 (0) Blues 20 (3)

Scorers

Waratahs
Tries – Nawaqanitawase (2)
Pen – Edmed
Con – Edmed (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Blues
Tries – Suafoa, Romano
Pen – McKenzie
Con – Sullivan (2)
Drop – Sullivan
Cards – Choat (Yellow, 28′), A. Ioane (Yellow, 29′)

Match Officials
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 2: 
Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie

Teams

Waratahs: 15 Ben Donaldson, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Charlie Gamble, 5 Ned Hanigan, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Archer Holz, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.

Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Jeremy Williams, 21 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Jamie Roberts.

Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 13 Tamati Tua, 12 Corey Evans, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Jock McKenzie, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Taine Plumtree, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Anton Segner, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Luke Romano (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Jordan Lay.

Replacements:
16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Sam Darry, 20 Cameron Suafoa, 21 Akira Ioane, 22 Taufa Funaki, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.

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