Waratahs crushed by Crusaders as NSW youngsters emerge
Two tries to exciting newcomer Mark Nawaqanitawase wasn't enough for NSW Waratahs, who opened their Super Rugby season with a 43-25 loss to the Crusaders in Nelson.
The three-time defending champion Crusaders had too much class for the Australian side, whose inexperience was exposed on Saturday in their first competition game under new Kiwi coach Rob Penney.
Debuts were handed to five-eighth Will Harrison, who kicked 10 points, but it was winger Nawaqanitawase who grabbed his limited chances with both hands, bagging a second-half double.
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With his team trailing 24-6 at halftime, the 19-year-old flyer breathed life into the Waratahs' chances with two tries in the space of three minutes to reduce the margin to six points.
However, the Crusaders found another gear, creating tries for Braydon Ennor, Will Jordan and Luke Romano to seal a victory that suggests they are once again the competition's team to beat.
New Waratahs skipper Rob Simmons said there were positives to take from a game in which he accepted they were outplayed.
"I'm quite disappointed in that we created a lot of things but we just couldn't capitalise. I think they punished us on the turnovers," said Simmons, who inherited the captaincy from Michael Hooper.
Despite starting with only three of their World Cup All Blacks, Scott Robertson's team were sharp. They were stronger at scrum and driving play than the visitors and unleashed a number of sweeping attacks.
They captain Scott Barrett revealed his team, which is also heavily changed from 2019, were hungry to secure an 11th title.
"We wanted to start well, to set the pace in this competition and I think we showed plenty of attacking endeavour," he said.
The Waratahs' hopes of ending a 16-year winless drought against the Crusaders in New Zealand weren't helped by missing 33 tackles and making too many turnovers. Their only first-half points were twin penalties to Harrison while the Crusaders crossed through outside backs Leicester Fainga'anuku, Jordan and Ennor - the latter pair later finishing with a brace.
The Waratahs were unfortunate not to register a try to their most exciting runner, veteran fullback Kurtley Beale, whose apparent five-pointer was ruled out after replays showed a contentious forward pass earlier in the play from halfback Jake Gordon.
It was Junior Wallaby Nawaqanitawase who breached the red and black defence. He first spun past one defender before diving spectacularly in the corner, while the second try was a 60m intercept in which his speed kept Jordan at bay. Fellow winger Alex Newsome scored a consolation try for the Waratahs, who host the Blues in Newcastle next week.