by Iain Payten, The Daily Telegraph
THE hapless Waratahs have sunk to rock bottom by falling to a humbling defeat at the hands of the lowly Southern Kings at Allianz Stadium.
In one of their worst ever losses, the Tahs let slip a 10-point lead at halftime and the South Africans - who have only ever won two games away from home in their history - came home over the top with 19 second-half points.
The Kings have conceded an average of 45 points a game this season but the bumbling Tahs couldn't manage to scrape together anything resembling an efficient attack, with horrific ball security, an awful set-piece and an overall lack of urgency and attacking strategy.
It was an embarrassing performance only matched by the night the Waratahs lost to the Cheetahs in 2011 and got duly booed off by their fans.
The fans didn't boo on this occasion but they must have been tempted.
To put the Kings' victory into context, the Eastern Cape side had only won three games in the last two seasons prior to Friday night at Allianz Stadium.
Two of those wins had come over the Sunwolves and one was against the Jaguares, and the Kings are being targeted for the axe from Super Rugby next year due to a lack of results.
They beat the Rebels in 2013 in Melbourne but the Waratahs are undoubtedly their biggest scalp.
NSW are a broken team and even with the Australian conference remaining wide open, they can't lay any serious claim to be a finals contender after losing to the Kings.
The amount of dropped ball was criminal, and against a team who had proven they would crack after three or four phases, NSW couldn't even get it that far.
They turned the ball over almost 30 times, and it allowed the Kings to camp in their half in the second half, and their scrum and line out defence was attacked mercilessly by the African visitors.
The Kings clawed back from a halftime deficit with tries to Masixole Banda and they took the lead with a rolling maul try to Michael Willhemse.
When the Tahs conceded a penalty try via a backpeddling scrum in the 77th minute, the humiliation was complete.
"It was a pretty embarrassing," Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said post-match.
"Our set piece was terrible. It will be a really tough week."
The Waratahs led 17-7 at halftime, their first surplus at the break in 2017.
It was more down to the Kings' ineptitude than NSW brilliance though, with the hosts' ordinary ball security and wobbly set-piece preventing them from putting on any sustained possession or territory.
The Kings' defence is the worst in Super Rugby and NSW had ample chances to score early but in the first ten minutes they turned over the ball four times in the Kings' 22; two via lost line outs.
The first try eventually came via big Taqele Naiyaravoro in the 13th minute when even a telegraphed cross kick to Izzy Folau - designed to isolate 172cm Kings fullback Masixole Banda - still worked, just about.
A bobbling deflection was picked up by Naiyaravoro, who scored in the corner.
Any hope of a stable set-piece went out the door with NSW's scrum getting repeatedly penalised, and even weight of possession couldn't be relied upon, with numerous breakdown turnovers in attack after a phase or two.
The Kings' mistake rate was just as high, though, so the potential for disaster was small.
Growing restless, the crowd finally got on their feet when Folau sparked a 95-metre try, running from his own line. He ran to the halfway line, flicked an inside pass to Bernard Foley and the No 10 found Rob Horne, who used the sight screen to evade a pacy cover defender just at the right moment.
The Tahs went a man down in the 32nd minute when Ned Hanigan wassinbinned for a professional foul.
The Kings attacked NSW's line but Foley' alert play saw him intercept a ball on his own line, and he fed Cameron Clark who ran 80 metres to score.
The Kings took advantage of the man up when prop Justin Forwood scored a try after Foley's kick was charged down in the 36th minute and they were unlucky to not score again at the halftime siren.
Also on Friday night, the ACT Brumbies fell to the defending champion Hurricanes 56-21 in Napier.