Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu showed glimpses of class in his first rugby game for the Queensland Reds, but finished on the losing side as the NSW Waratahs prevailed 45-33 in a pre-season trial in Narrabri.
Two late tries from replacement centre Joey Walton on Friday secured victory for the Waratahs after they trailed 33-31 early in the last of the four quarters in the NSW country town.
New NSW captain Jake Gordon bagged a brace of opportunistic tries but with some of the Wallabies on both teams not starting or playing, much of the focus was on the debut of former Melbourne Storm star Vunivalu.
The winger, who scored 87 tries in 112 rugby league games before moving across from the NRL premiers, played most of the second half.
He showed some good footwork on the occasions he handled the ball and had a couple of half chances near the Tahs’ line late in the third quarter.
On the first occasion, the Fijian speedster spun out of a couple of attempted tackles and shortly after almost reeled in a high cross-field kick.
He was stopped just short of the line in the fourth quarter, and got an intercept In the fourth, but the ball was knocked on soon after.
Vunivalu was eclipsed in the Reds’ scoring stakes by two other Fijian-born players
Number eight Seru Uru crossed twice, with Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu also notching a try.
NSW scored seven tries to five, with Wallabies half Gordon a standout.
His side trailed 7-5 at quarter time but Gordon set up their 19-14 halftime advantage, with a move straight out of a NFL playbook, flying over several forwards at a maul for his first try.
In the third quarter, he took a quick tap penalty, kicking and regathering for a second try and the Tahs surged to a 31-19 lead.
Queensland rallied to hit the front in the fourth before Walton’s double settled the issue.
The two old rivals clash again in the opening round of the Super Rugby AU competition on February 19 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.