The NSW Waratahs have some headaches as the Super Rugby Pacific season approaches, after they were steamrolled by the Queensland Reds in a trial game two weeks out from a round-one rematch.
The Reds led 29-0 at halftime and won 32-7 on Saturday night, with Jock Campbell in devastating form at fullback and fellow try-scorer Hunter Paisami equally damaging at inside centre.
The Reds’ offence was humming in Roma, where new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, who doesn’t officially start in the role until March 1, was an interested onlooker.
A penalty try when Reds winger Suliasi Vunivalu was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-down early in the second half was the Waratahs’ only source of joy.
“There was good speed to our game in the first half and we did a lot of things well for our four tries,” Reds coach Les Kiss said.
“The Waratahs came back at us to open the second half. We know everything goes up a level on February 24 when we are playing for points.”
Test hooker Matt Faessler scored two first-half tries while 19-year-old No.10 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips did his round-one selection chances no harm given the Reds’ flow with him in the driver’s seat.
Campbell started on the bench in last week’s loss to the Western Force, with Jordan Petaia preferred in the No.15 by new coach Les Kiss.
But the 2022 Wallaby, overlooked by Eddie Jones last year after a slow start to Super Rugby last year, made the most of his audition with two first-half try assists and a clean break to score himself. It came after he copped a heavy hit from Dylan Pietsch out wide, who was shown a yellow card for the contact, but did little to slow the classy fullback.
He put Paisami into space for the game’s first try, the No.12 running over the top of Joey Walton to finish with authority and set the tone of the physically dominant first half.
The sides will meet in the first round in Brisbane on February 24, Darren Coleman’s men needing to fix a leaky defence that also conceded 38 points in a hefty loss to Melbourne Rebels last Saturday.
“It’s obviously a bit deflating,” Waratahs prop Harry Johson-Holmes said.
“The scoreline got away from us early and the Reds played really well and took their opportunities.
“Momentum is a hell of a thing in rugby, and they really capitalised on the penalties we were giving away and the ball we were turning over.
“We’ve got to tidy some stuff up before round one, but that’s what trials are for. They’re all really fixable areas.”
In Perth, Western Force five-eighth Max Burey missed a tough after-the-siren conversion to level their trial game against the ACT Brumbies, who snuck home 22-20.
The Brumbies scored four tries to the Force’s two, Andy Muirhead’s five-pointer off a Corey Toole kick giving the visitors a 22-15 lead nine minutes from full time.
Henry O’Donnell replied with the game’s final play but Burey pushed his kick wide.
The Force, who beat the Reds last week, host the Hurricanes in round one while the Rebels host the Brumbies.