With just a minute left on the clock and the Sunwolves trailing by one point (30-31), Hayden Parker attempted to win the game with a drop-goal. It drifted just wide.
The Waratahs outscored the Sunwolves by five tries to three at the Prince Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday, including a penalty try for repeated infringements.
Israel Folau also made history.
The Wallaby star was a constant menace in Tokyo, scoring twice in the first half to finish the game as Australia’s highest try-scorer in the competition with a career total of 58 and counting.
The Sunwolves, thrashed 45-10 by the Sharks last week, took the lead with a breakaway try after eight minutes, Ryoto Nakamura teeing up Gerhard van den Heever to trundle over in the corner.
The Sydneysiders hit back moments later through Kurtley Beale, but a Hayden Parker penalty restored the home side’s advantage.
A quickfire Folau double looked to have knocked the stuffing out of the Wolves, only for the Tokyo franchise to snatch a 20-17 half-time lead through another Parker three-pointer and a converted Tom Rowe try.
Parker kept the pressure on with another penalty soon after the break, but Jack Dempsey crashed over and Bernard Foley kicked the extras as the visitors got their noses back in front again.
The Waratahs added seven more points just after the hour mark through a penalty try that saw veteran Sunwolves lock Luke Thompson sent to the sin-bin.
There was a further twist, however, as van den Heever spotted a gap to score his second try of the game and Parker’s boot reduced the deficit to a single point with 10 minutes left.
But Parker sliced a late drop goal attempt wide to ensure the Sunwolves, facing an uncertain future as Super Rugby bosses prepare to thrash out the competition’s format in March, failed to register just their seventh win at the start of their fourth season.
For the Sunwolves:
Tries: Van den Heever 2, Rowe
Cons: Parker 3
Pens: Parker 3
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Beale, Folau 2, Dempsey, Penalty try
Cons: Foley 2, penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow card: Luke Thompson (Sunwolves, 62 – repeated infringements, illegally collapsing a maul)
Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Shane Gates, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Tom Rowe, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar (captain).
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Awe Helu, 20 James Moore, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Michael Little, 23 Rikiya Matsuda.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cam Clark/Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Shuhei Kubo
TMO: Minoru Fuji