It came as no surprise when the Waratahs Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau and Bernard Foley suddenly clicked in a ten-minute second-half burst last night at Allianz Stadium to turn another humiliating defeat into a spine-tingling victory.
The bigger question would be where were the big three in the previous 131 minutes?
That’s the 80 minutes last week in a shock 40-31 loss to the Brumbies that cost the Waratahs second place on the overall Super Rugby ladder and a home semi.
And the first 51 minutes last night when the Highlanders led 23-6 and were in total control of the sudden death quarterfinal.
The Waratahs were stuffed at that stage, and there was no way they weren’t heading for the Super Rugby exit door.
Then out of nowhere, the big three were suddenly magnificent.
Two brilliant Beale busts sent Folau and Foley in for tries, a superb Folau bust saw Foley cross again and he converted all three.
For Foley, it was a timely Super Rugby career-best 25 points.
So from 23-6 down and out to a 27-23 lead was awesome, even though the stats tell a very different story in the eventual 30-23 victory.
The Waratahs missed 24 tackles, mainly in the first half debacle.
But when push turned to shove late in the game as the Highlanders threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the Waratahs close to their line in the final 10 minutes, the Waratahs didn’t miss one tackle.
They were sensational with their pride and passion shining brightly.
Roarers won’t believe these stats.
The Waratahs had only 38 per cent possession and 32 per cent territory in the second half, but they kept a rampaging Highlander outfit scoreless while piling on 24 points.
But that’s the magic of Beale, Folau and Foley when they are on fire.
And last night Nick Phipps played a leading role as well in that ten-minute burst.
Next week, in the sudden death semi at altitude in Johannesburg against the Lions, the Waratah roster must fire and not go to sleep with brain dead rugby unbecoming a quality side.
One thing is for sure, the Waratahs can’t always rely on the big three running riot.
One stat that is spot on is the four top try-scoring franchises have reached the semis.
The Crusaders and Lions crossed for 77 in the scheduled rounds, the Waratahs for 74, and the Hurricanes for 66, so the best defence will decide the finalists.
The Waratahs are capable of winning the coveted title, but only if they play for 80 minutes.
They haven’t done that all season, but next weekend would be a fine time to start.