Star Wallaby Israel Folau became NSW’s all-time leading tryscorer after touching down in his side’s 49-13 rout of the Western Force in Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash at nib Stadium.
The Waratahs appeared in danger of slipping to their third straight defeat after a try to debutant Force hooker Harry Scoble closed the margin to just seven points in the 53rd minute.
But a try to Folau four minutes later helped settle the nerves, before the Waratahs ran rampant in the final half hour to seal the bonus-point win.
Folau’s 30th try for the Waratahs sees him eclipse Lote Tuqiri’s previous record of 29.
But more importantly, NSW’s third win of the season keeps their slim finals hopes alive ahead of next week’s crunch clash with the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Force (1-7) now face a fight to avoid back-to-back wooden spoons in a season that has been wrecked by injuries.
NSW entered Saturday’s match under intense pressure after losing consecutive home games to the Rebels and Brumbies.
And although their performance was far from pretty during the first 50 minutes, their try-scoring barrage in the final 30 minutes showcased their attacking potential.
Both sides committed a glut of simple errors during the first half, but the Waratahs were able to capitalise on the rare chances they had on offer.
The Force were on the back foot when winger Semisi Masirewa was given a yellow card in the 11th minute for tackling an airborne Andrew Kellaway.
NSW piled on 10 points while Masirewa was off, with Rob Horne scoring a try in his first match since suffering a hand injury in round two.
The Force won some crucial battles at the breakdown, but they struggled to find gaps in a resolute Waratahs defence.
NSW took a handy 17-6 lead into half-time when Nick Phipps touched down in the 40th minute, with the TMO ruling the ball had touched the line before the scrumhalf had lost control.
The Force started the second half with a bang and were soon within seven points of their rivals after Scoble scored from a rolling maul.
But when fullback Kellaway rode two tackles before offloading to Folau for NSW’s third try, the Force’s spirit had been broken.
From there the floodgates opened, with winger Reece Robinson, Angus Ta’avao, and Jed Holloway all crossing in a free-flowing final half hour.