Waratahs fullback Israel Folau (L) passes the ball under the pressure of Argentina's Jaguares fly half Nicolas Sanchez (2-R) and flanker Pablo Matera (R).
Waratahs fullback Israel Folau (L) passes the ball under the pressure of Argentina's Jaguares fly half Nicolas Sanchez (2-R) and flanker Pablo Matera (R).

Too little, too late, for turnstile Tahs

THE Waratahs' early-season optimism has come crashing down after being pumped by the Jaguares in a humbling 38-28 loss in Buenos Aires.

The 10-point margin didn't tell the tale of a very one-sided match, which saw the Waratahs concede a try inside the first 20 seconds and trail by 33-7 at halftime.

The Tahs contained the damage somewhat in the second half and scored two of their three tries in the last two minutes to paint a veneer of respectability on the scoreboard. It also denied the Jaguares a deserved bonus point.

But in truth, the game was dominated by the Argentinians from start to finish, with the Waratahs' lack of physicality at the gain-line - or a stable scrum - denying them momentum in attack, and making their doggedly pursued game plan to attack wide far too easy to shut down.

Argentina's Jaguares wing Emiliano Boffelli (L) and Australia's Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale have a wrestle.
Argentina's Jaguares wing Emiliano Boffelli (L) and Australia's Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale have a wrestle.

Pushed passes led to turnovers, and the lack of dominance in defensive contact also gave the Jaguares roll forward with the ball, the freedom to make pop passes and the ability to score tries.

As the scoreboard ticked over, the wheels also came off discipline-wise for NSW, which saw errors compounded and hard-fought territory gains given away cheaply.

The Jaguares may not have kicked on and posted a score in the Tahs' worst-ever folder but after two early games where NSW's defence had looked improved from last year, this took them back to the bad old days of 2017.

The six-to-four try tally was the eighth time the Waratahs have conceded five or more tries in a game in the last two seasons.

Last year was also the season where the Tahs allowed second-half comebacks - they "won" 21-5 in the second 40 in Buenos Aires - to mask the underlying issues of an inability to adapt their preferred game under pressure.

On paper, the final scoreline may not alert a casual reader to the Waratahs having had their flaws exposed badly but Rebels coach Dave Wessels - who brings his team to Sydney next Sunday - will be all over the gametape.

"We let that game get away from us too quickly and the Jaguares were able to get quick points in that first half," NSW captain Michael Hooper.

"We know what they can do with disrupted ball, we just weren't urgent enough at the start to hold onto our ball."

Waratahs scrum half Jake Gordon (R) runs with the ball marked by Argentina's Jaguares fly half Nicolas Sanchez (L).
Waratahs scrum half Jake Gordon (R) runs with the ball marked by Argentina's Jaguares fly half Nicolas Sanchez (L).

It's not often you can lose an 80-minute game in the first 20 seconds but that's just about what happened for NSW, when they tapped back their kick-off and without a trailing player, watched the Jaguares scoop it up and race 75 metres to score.

That rattled the Tahs but they had the chance to get back in the game thereafter, with good territory and sustained possession. It amounted to nothing, however, with the Tahs unable to punch through the Jaguares' line.

Errors led to the Jaguares breaking out and popping passes, and Emiliano Boffelli scored his second against the now-rattled Tahs.

They pretty much stayed rattled for the rest of the game.

Joacquin Tuculet strolled through the Waratahs' back defence off a scrum soon after for a third - Rona and Foketi both looked at the other - when Nicolas Sanchez went over a fourth it was 26-0 and major nightmare territory.

The Tahs finally got on the board when Jed Holloway scored with a clever pick-and-scoot from the ruck, which was available due to the hosts putting 14 men in the line.

Waratahs prop Tom Robertson hits the ball up.
Waratahs prop Tom Robertson hits the ball up.

But any hope of a comeback was dashed when the Tahs' dogged persistence to make their penetration out wide saw Bernard Foley's long pass intercepted and give away a try as the halftime hooter sounded.

A second try to Rona after the break breathed life into the Tahs again, and they managed to halt the Jaguares' momentum. There was no scores for the next half-hour, which obviously was a concern for the Waratahs far more than Mario Ledesma's men.

Though it didn't determine the match by any means, some half-heartedly pedancti refereeing of Mike Fraser didn't give the Waratahs any timely footholds for a comeback.

He was largely all over the Waratahs but allowed the Jaguares to get away with a fair bit of illegality in their quarter, and also failed to police a routine habit of flying off their feet over the breakdown.

The Waratahs' bench gave some impact again, and it wouldn't surprise to see Nick Palmer, Kali Tawake and Will Miller get more minutes or even starts as the season goes on. Palmer scored in the 79th minute off a sketchy forward pass and Folau won the race to a toed through ball after the siren.

It was too little, way too late, for NSW.

SCOREBOARD

JAGUARES 38 (Emiliano Boffelli 2, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Nicolas Sanchez, Joaquin Tuculet tries Sanchez 4 cons) bt NSW WARATAHS 28 (Israel Folau, Jed Holloway, Nicholas Palmer, Curtis Rona tries Bernard Foley 4 cons) at Velez Sarsfield. Referee: Mike Fraser


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