Flyhalf James O’Connor kicked two late penalties to help the Reds beat the Waratahs 32-26 in Brisbane on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The game looked to be headed for a draw, no thanks to Reds fullback Bryce Hegarty, who missed a couple of penalties from straight in front. But O’Connor took over the kicking duties late in the game and effortlessly nailed two crucial penalties to win the game for the Reds.
The result sees the Reds end a seven-year drought and 11-game losing streak against the Waratahs.
Quality-wise, the first match of Australia’s revamped domestic Super Rugby tournament was far from the spectacular contests viewers have been treated in the New Zealand equivalent, Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Australian derbies are notoriously dreary affairs, but while this game didn’t lack action, it was still an error-strewn.
The first half in particular was blighted by ill-discipline and handling mistakes, but things gradually improved in the second stanza as the Waratahs completed a good comeback from 19-7 down to edge ahead, only to lose at the end.
Despite the subdued action, the Reds settled down and into rhythm faster than the Waratahs and made the most of their opportunities. Ten minutes into the game the sides were locked at seven-all, but the hosts scored twice through backs Filipo Daugunu and Tate McDermott to go 19-7 up on the scoreboard .
Trailing by 12 and with everything seemingly going against them, the Waratahs looked dead and buried at that stage.
A combination of complacency and ill-discipline from the Reds and increased urgency from the Waratahs sparked the visitors to life and put them on the comeback trail.
Rookie flyhalf Will Harrison’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors, slotting one penalty before and two penalties after the break to get them within three points. Fullback Jack Maddocks then crossed for a converted try to put the Waratahs in the lead for the first time in the match.
But the Reds found their second wind and scored via No 8 Harry Wilson, but Harrison again pulled three points back for the Waratahs to level the scores up again. With the game on a knife’s edge and the result hanging in the balance, Reds prop Taniela Tupou was yellow carded for stupidly taking out a Reds kicker after the kick was made and it was the second time he had done it in the game.
But instead of using the man-over advantage in their favour, the Waratahs lost their cool, failing to add to their tally. And they were made to rue their wastefulness as O’Connor stepped up at the other end of the field to seal the win for the Reds.
Reds – Tries: Liam Wright, Tate McDermott, Filipo Daugunu, Harry Wilson. Conversions: Bryce Hegarty (3). Penalties: James O’Connor (2).
Waratahs – Tries: Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jack Maddocks. Conversions: Will Harrison (2). Penalties: Harrison (4).
Reds – Tries: Liam Wright, Tate McDermott, Filipo Daugunu. Conversions: Bryce Hegarty (2).
Waratahs – Try: Harry Johnson-Holmes. Conversion: Will Harrison. Penalties: Harrison (2).
Reds – 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (c), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 23 Josh Flook.
Waratahs – 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell.
Subs: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Michael Mcdonald, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Tepai Moeroa.
Photo: Getty Images