The New South Wales Waratahs have hung on to record a gritty 40-32 win over the Queensland Reds in an entertaining Aussie derby.
The Reds were coming off a six-point loss to the Rebels last week and were looking to bounce back against their traditional rivals. The Waratahs had just finished their two-game tour of South Africa where they suffered two close losses.
In cool conditions at Suncorp Stadium, Bernard Foley put the ‘Tahs ahead inside five minutes.
The visitors applied early pressure upon the Reds and the defensive line eventually broke. The ball was cleared from the back of the ruck by Nick Phipps in midfield to find Bernard Foley on the left. Foley, marked by Taniela Tupou, shaped to pass before putting his head down and diving over for the try. He also converted his own try from just left of the uprights.
Just moments later, the Reds were denied a try after a TMO review by referee Ben O’Keeffe. The ball was deemed to have been just short of the line and therefore, no try.
This did not worry the home side though as they tried again to get over the chalk. They eventually succeeded when youngster Angus Blyth burrowed his way over from close range on the left wing. Bryce Hegarty’s conversion attempt hit the post, leaving the score at 7-5.
Only four minutes later, the Reds had a scrum in midfield on the halfway line. They went right to captain Samu Kerevi who busted through Foley’s tackle and strode ahead. He seemed to have been wrapped up in the next tackle but he flicked it out to right winger, Jock Campbell.
Campbell had no-one in front of him as he ran in for the first try of his Super Rugby career. Hegarty’s conversion attempt once again hit the uprights and the score stayed at 10-7 in favour of the home side.
The ‘Tahs looked to regain the lead and they did so in scrappy fashion. Deep in Reds’ territory, Kurtley Beale looked to have forced his way over. A TMO review was required when it was discovered that the ball had been knocked backwards, only for Michael Wells to grab the opportunity and dive on the ball. A try was awarded and the Foley conversion restored the ‘Tahs’ lead to four points.
News came through in the 27th minute that Reds’ loosehead prop, JP Smith, had failed his Head Injury Assessment and would not return to the field. Harry Hoopert played the remainder of the match in his absence.
Twelve minutes before halftime, the Reds made their way into the Waratahs’ 22. Hegarty placed an awkward grubber kick through the line and a horrible bounce caused Beale to fumble the ball. Lukhan Salakai-Loto made an incredible pick-up off the ground and handed it off to Matt McGahan who slipped it on to Sefa Naivalu. Naivalu skipped down the left-hand touchline and dotted down for the Reds’ third try of the evening. Hegarty missed the conversion.
An obstruction penalty conceded by Michael Hooper after the half-time siren meant the score at halftime remained 15-14 to the Reds.
The Reds’ struck straight after the break, courtesy of an intercept by Chris Feaua-Sautia. The inside centre pounced on a stray pass in midfield and set off towards the try-line. He was chased down Beale but managed to pop it up to Hegarty who streaked away for the five-pointer. This time, Hegarty did add the extras.
The ‘Tahs hit back four minutes later to tighten things up once again. Five metres out in the middle of the field, winger Alex Newsome ran a bustling channel on Nick Phipps’ left shoulder. Phipps found Newsome and the winger had no-one in front of him as he slid in under the sticks. Foley kicked the conversion to make the score 22-21, the Reds still ahead.
The tries kept coming as the Reds scored once more. From the back of the scrum, Hegarty received the ball at flyhalf and ran at the line. He stepped off his left past Phipps and then once more to score under the posts for the hosts. In unusual circumstances, Phipps, who missed the tackle on Hegarty, charged down the conversion leaving the scores at 27-21.
It was only five minutes until the next try was scored, this time from the Waratahs. Inches from the try-line, Beale delivered a short ball to Michael Wells who ran a strong line to crash over for the New South Welshman. Foley’s conversion gave the Waratahs a slender one-point lead heading into the final 25 minutes.
Foley added a penalty kick to his name to extend the lead to four points before the Reds’ returned fire once again.
Playing under a penalty advantage, Matt McGahan unleashed a cross-field kick towards the left-hand corner. He found an unlikely candidate in hooker Alex Mafi. But Mafi showed the feet of a winger as he danced around Newsome and put the Reds’ ahead by one. Hegarty didn’t have the radar working, missing yet another conversion.