“That was State of Origin and very physical,” Reds captain Liam Wright said. “I was buggered out there. We put a lot of passion into that performance.”
An unstable scrum and more poor handling hampered the Waratahs but they were far from blasted off the park. Jack Maddocks and Will Harrison put in strong shifts at the back and at first receiver.
“Although we’re very disappointed with the loss, I think we’re making progress,” Waratahs captain Rob Simmons said. “To lose by two penalty goals is a marked improvement. We’ll take that and move forward.
“I think discipline really let us down. It’s been letting us down all season.”
New rules are all the talk of Super Rugby AU. While there were no 22-50s on Friday evening, Tate McDermott nailed a clever 50-22 in the 53rd minute. For the trivia buffs, Harrison kicked rugby’s first goal-line drop-out in the 45th minute.
Unfortunately, scrum resets dominated portions of the game but a fascinating dual played out between props Angus Bell and his more experienced opponent Taniela Tupou.
Bell was right under pressure after going to ground a few times and the exasperated look on the youngster’s face said it all as he mentally readied to pack down again against Tupou.
Sure enough, Nic Berry had no option but to yellow card Bell when the scrum collapsed again and then, while the Waratahs were half asleep, McDermott took a quick tap to dive over the line. Queensland laughed rather than celebrated. Talk about a coach killer.
Despite the lapse in concentration, the Waratahs hung in to kick a couple of penalties and go into the break trailing 19-13.
The intensity of the clash was reflected in a helter-skelter opening period.
And what a sight it was to see the incumbent Wallabies captain, Michael Hooper, giving Reds young gun Harry Wilson a shove on the red headgear. Wilson got his revenge with the last try of the game in the 64th minute, and didn’t he love it.
During the week Wright said he wanted to smash the Waratahs – and that he did as he barged through their defence for the Reds’ first five-pointer in the sixth minute. Both sides then traded tries courtesy of Harry Johnson-Holmes and Filipo Daugunu.
Maddocks was excellent in the absence of Kurtley Beale at fullback. His aerial work was top notch, he made a terrific try-saving tackle on McDermott and even showed he could kick long with both feet.
But it was his try under the sticks in the 48th minute that came from a bullet, mid-range inside pass from Lachlan Swinton that took the cake for play of the game. It showed Swinton has finesse to go with an absolute mean streak that stirred his opponents big time.
Harrison controlled the game astutely, but debutant Joey Walton was unable to find his feet at No.12 after dropping a number of – albeit poor – passes when the Waratahs craved steady possession. He will be better for the experience but NSW missed Karmichael Hunt’s experience.
Tupou was sin-binned in the 67th minute for a late hit on Harrison. It could have been extremely costly but the Reds held onto the ball, won a crucial late turnover penalty thanks to Fraser McReight and marched up field before O’Connor kicked a late three-pointer after the siren.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald