Reds second-rower Lukhan Salakaia-Loto snarled at Lachie Swinton, and the New South Welshman didn’t back down. According to Gordon, Swinton is already “practising tackling at home on the pillow case”.
There was also a bone-rattling tackle from Hunter Paisami on James Ramm, a late Taniela Tupou hit that Jack Maddocks took offence to, and the most heated moment of the night when Swinton, while on the ground, threw the ball at Fraser McReight’s face after the youngster won a crucial turnover penalty.
That’s not to mention some prickly sledging heard on the referee’s microphone.
The Waratahs have not forgotten and after being publicly criticised by their coaches for not displaying enough intensity in their most recent 29-10 loss to the Rebels, fans can expect more fireworks as they fight to keep their season alive, having won just one of their four games in Super Rugby 2.0.
“After that first game the fire is in the belly,” Gordon said. “This week we’ve really ramped up the contact … the boys are really ready to go.
“There was a lot of feeling in that game. I can imagine they have a lot of feeling. They lost 11 in a row [to NSW], so I guess it was their time to get a win under the belt. After reviewing that game, there’s probably a little bit of heat in that game we’re looking to bring and match this time.”
Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa agreed that “emotions were high” and is adamant there will be more of the same physicality.
“Certain individuals will be out there to prove a point,” Paenga-Amosa said. “I know us as Queenslanders will go in, play smart, stick to our process and do what we do best and that is good, hard, tough, strong Queenslander footy.”
The Waratahs can ill-afford to let passion cloud their task at hand, with discipline continuing to be a major problem.
NSW have conceded 14.5 penalties a game, the worst of any team in Super Rugby AU, compared to the Reds who have the best return in this department with 10 against per match.
Gordon said Waratahs coaches had stressed that getting onside, as well as rolling away after making a tackle, were the two key work-ons if the side wanted to break a two-game losing streak.
“We’re obviously talking about not working hard enough,” Gordon said. “Our running numbers, from what I’ve been told, are superior to other Super Rugby teams. We do find that frustrating but I think it’s almost like a mental lapse where we’re waiting for something to happen instead of actually focusing probably more on yourself and doing your best role in the team.”
Time is ticking for some of the Waratahs’ more senior figures to impress before Wallabies selection talk ramps up.
Gordon, Jack Dempsey, Jack Maddocks, Tom Robertson, Ned Hanigan and Karmichael Hunt have all donned a gold jersey before and, while none are certainties to be there again, have a golden opportunity to send a reminder their best is yet to come.
“For Australian rugby it’s consistency that we really need,” Gordon said. “I think we need to put back-to-back-to-back performances together, individually and as teams.”
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Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald