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'Tough call': Reds too good for Tahs in cracking Aussie derby, as controversial penalty try, yellow to Jorgo proves telling

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Editor
24th February, 2024
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Les Kiss’ reaction said it all.

In his first Super Rugby match in charge of the Queensland Reds since taking over from Brad Thorn, the former Maroons State of Origin winger was like a jackrabbit in the coach’s box as he watched his new side put on a display that will warm the hearts of those north of the Tweed border.

The Reds turned down shots at goal and backed their ability to find the tryline. More often than not, they did.

In the end, the Reds scored six tries to three to record a comfortable 40-22 win in wet conditions to get their season off to the perfect start by taking home the Bob Templeton Cup.

The decisive moment came on the stroke of half-time, as the Reds were awarded a penalty try when New Zealand referee James Doleman deemed Max Jorgensen made contact with Jordan Petaia a split second too early when trying to prevent the try.

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Tate McDermott celebrates after scoring at the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium, on February 24, 2024. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Not only did it allow the Reds to take a 21-15 lead into half-time, but it meant the Waratahs were without their talented 19-year-old fullback for the opening quarter of the second half.

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At the time, former Wallaby turned Stan Sport pundit Morgan Turinui said the yellow card on top of the penalty try was too harsh.

“It’s too much of a penalty for that,” he said.

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said he would have liked to have seen a different angle, while captain Jake Gordon said it was a “really tough play” but added it was “rugby”.

Star Reds flanker Fraser McReight admitted the moment was the decisive turning point.

“If we don’t score that try, it’s 14-15 in the sheds. Getting that seven points, playing 10 minutes with 14 men, I think that was huge for us and took the wind out of the Tahs’ sails,” McReight said.

While the Waratahs defended stoutly to begin with, their ill-discipline eventually caught up with them as the Reds scored two tries in five minutes to open the game up.

Although Dylan Pietsch completed a fortuitous brace of tries to keep the Waratahs in the hunt, McReight’s try in the 64th minute then sealed the deal.

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The 18-point loss leaves the Waratahs and particularly Coleman, who reportedly has until the end of March to convince the NSW board he is the man to back beyond this season, with a big task ahead of them as they prepare to take on three New Zealand teams in a row, starting with the Crusaders next week.

Defence will be one of the big improvements for the Waratahs, with too many first-up tackles being missed.

The Reds’ ability to free their arms and offload the ball troubled the Waratahs all night, with Harry Wilson and Seru Uru running amok in the greasy conditions.

The Waratahs’ international prop Angus Bell said they had to quickly turn around their defence and discipline to give themselves a chance against the Crusaders.

“I think it’s all in our defence,” he said.

“We’ve done so much work on it, and [defence coach] ‘Gilly’ [Jason Gilmore] works so hard on it. We have to keep building on it. Obviously we’re not good enough there, but it’s not so much our defence it’s our discipline.”

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He added that things weren’t clicking on the field with his team.

“We know individually we have good players, we’ve got some great athletes in our team, but you look at the history of Australian rugby and the history of the Waratahs and it’s not always the best players that get picked, it’s the best team,” Bell said.

“We’ve got to get that balance of what our best rugby looks like, with our best players, and get that cohesion because at the moment, we don’t have it. We’ve got a big challenge against the Crusaders.”

The Waratahs might not have overcome their early season struggles from last year, but the Reds seemingly have turned a corner quickly under Kiss.

After 15 years coaching abroad, including with Ireland at two World Cups, Kiss’ fingerprints were all over the Reds’ improved showing.

From the moment he walked through the door at Ballymore, Kiss had demanded the Reds “pull the trigger” and break free from the shackles of years gone by.

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That they did, as Wilson’s through the legs pass to Tate McDermott worked out a charm, while Petaia roamed in the back field and showed off his raking boot, including from a football-esque clearing kicking off the deck to once again swing the momentum in the Reds’ favour.

The midfield combination of Hunter Paisami and Josh Flook looked balance, with the latter setting up McReight for his side’s final try as he wove his way through a broken NSW defensive line. Fly-half Tom Lynagh, too, enjoyed a solid night.

“It’s just enjoyable,” said McDermott of the changing feeling playing underneath Kiss.

“What Les has done is given those guys confidence. We’ve come off the back of some pretty poor years. They were shells of themselves last year and they’re playing to their full-potential.

“We’re not quite where we need to be at the moment, but that’s a bloody good start and we’ll take that any day of the week against a good outfit in the Waratahs.”

The Reds are enjoying playing under new head coach Les Kiss. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

After an early penalty to Waratahs fly-half Tane Edmed, Hunter Paisami put the Reds in front as he stormed onto a Lynagh pass to score next to the posts after his forwards rolled up their sleeves and attacked the opposition line.

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In a first half where the lead changed six times, the Reds’ lead didn’t last long as Mark Nawaqanitawase intercepted McDermott before passing the ball back on the inside to find Gordon who scored.

Reds hooker Matt Faessler, who made his Wallabies debut last year and appeared at the World Cup, then found his way to the tryline as he got on the end of another rolling maul.

The home side’s fans were left filthy when Jorgensen’s pass was allowed stand when Pietsch scored his first five-pointer out wide.

But the Reds faithful had nothing to moan about soon after when Jorgensen was sent to the sin bin for making contact with Petaia a fraction early after running onto a clever Suliasi Vunivalu grubber. The penalty try gave the Reds a six-point lead at half-time.

Faessler’s second in the 51st minute and McDermott’s well-taken try out wide soon after opened the match up.

Pietsch grabbed himself a double when his inside pass managed to ricochet back off Paisami’s arm.

But McReight ensured there would be no second half comeback, as the flanker scored a well-taken try to get the Reds off and running under Kiss.

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