I was getting off the escalator heading into the Myer Centre in Brisbane on Friday night, when I saw Nick Phipps and Rob Simmons walking in the other direction.
Thinking ahead to the Wallabies match against Ireland next Saturday I said to them “Gidday boys, have a good game” to which they replied “thanks mate”. Only after they had walked by did it occur to me that I had wished a couple of dirty Waratahs well, the day before they were to play the Reds on the hallowed turf of Suncorp Stadium.
As it turns out, they did play well on Saturday night, winning one of the most exciting games of rugby I have seen – 52 to 41. I was watching the game from my seat just up the field from the try line in the north-west corner of the stadium, and there was plenty of action right before my eyes.
The Reds got possession early to the excitement of the crowd, but coughed it up and the crowd groaned, with a ‘here we go again’ feeling floating around. The Tahs were down in front of us, threatening the Reds try line as quick as a flash, and Bernard Foley spun it wide.
Completely unexpectedly Reds Skipper Scott Higgenbotham tore out of the defensive line, intercepted the pass and bullocked down the park, finding Izaiah Perese running in support, who streaked away to score under the posts. The Queensland fans were on their feet and roaring and a we knew we a ball game!
Other action unfolded before our very eyes in the northwest was Taquale Naiyaravoro menacing the Reds line. On one occasion the 20 year old, 86kg fullback Jayden Ngamanu – who had been run in at the last moment to replace an injured Jono Lance for his second Super Rugby cap and first start – bravely hurled himself at the 123kg monster winger’s legs. He bounced off but slowing Naiyaravoro enough for the remainder of the Reds backs to swarm in on him and drag him down.
The Reds were overmatched when Naiyaravoro got a head of steam up though, with him bowling aside one, two, three defenders at one stage to score a try. It was hard to watch but impressive at the same time.
Equally impressive was the character shown by Perese, when Naiyaravoro’s threatened to do the same he put a hit on the big man that resonated into the stands, putting him to ground. Unfortunately it led to Naiyaravoro being taken off for a head injury assessment, but it highlights the aggressiveness that I love about Perese, which is why I was happy to read that despite not being selected for the Ireland series, Michael Cheika still has him in the Wallabies frame.
Curtis Rona also scored a try in the northwest, as did Jordan Petaia curtesy of an enterprising pass from Caleb Timu. It goes without saying though that it was Israel Folau’s leap and try just after the half time hooter was the biggest ‘wow’ moment in the corner, all you could do is applaud, with Jayden Ngamanu again having the unenviable task of trying to out-jump the best in the game.
Being the last line of defence against Folau and Naiyaravoro was the roughest of introductions, but he kept his chin up and kept coming at them, which bodes well for his future with the Reds.
There was plenty of action off the field in the North-West too, particularly from a ‘passionate’ Queensland fan who bellowed 45 second admonishments at the officials, every time they made a decision that he didn’t like.
The rest of us seemed to fluctuate between being amused and embarrassed at these antics from a middle-aged man, but the funniest bit came when Foley went for a conversion attempt from the sideline for Curtis Rona’s try.
Our resident windbag started yelling at him “You wouldn’t kick it for the Wallabies, but you will kick it for the Blues (sic) won’t you, come on Bernard you coward!”. I thought that was taking things a bit far, but Foley’s response of promptly slotting the goal was the best comeback.
I was wrong though because as Foley trotted off towards the southern end of the park, he made an even better comeback by looking over his shoulder up at the stand with the biggest smirk imaginable. Then when he slotted the conversion for Naiyaravo’s try from exactly the same spot and threw back another smirked to rub salt into the wound. The windbag was a lot quieter after that.
So even if you are a dirty Tah Bernard, I’ll pay that and hope you keep up the good work with the boot for the Wallabies the rest of the year.