The St.George Queensland Reds have defeated the New South Wales Waratahs 32-26 in the opening fixture of the Vodafone Super Rugby AU competition, snapping a seven-year, 11-game losing streak against their historical rivals.
Despite leading at half-time, Queensland trailed early in the second half before a pair of James O’Connor penalty goals kicked the side to a six-point win.
Liam Wright, Filipo Daugunu, Tate McDermott and Harry Wilson all crossed for tries in the victory, while the night was extra special for towering GPS lock Tuaina Taii Tualima, who made his Queensland debut with Fraser McReight also making his starting debut in the maroon jersey.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “To get that win over New South Wales – I think it was seven long years to get this (Bob Templeton) Cup so we’re very happy.
“It feels really good to have it (Bob Templeton Cup) back and it went down to the wire there and James stepped up there a couple of times - he was ice cool to kick those goals.
“There were no trial games for both sides and it was their first hit-out. I think you’ll see it get better as the games go on.
“Tuaina Tualima congratulations to him. We backed him to do his role. He got around the park and did a good job,” said Thorn.
Wright opened the Reds’ account in just the fifth minute of play, the captain charging onto a centimetre perfect McDermott short ball to score Queensland’s first points of the new competition. Bryce Hegarty added the extras to give the home side an early 7-nil advantage.
NSW hit back quickly through prop Harry Johnson-Holmes who burrowed through the Queensland line from close range to even the scores at 7-all in the 10th minute.
A Daugunu try recaptured the Queensland lead in the 17th minute, the flying winger stepping his way across the line off the back of an O’Connor cut-out pass to see the score at 12-7.
Waratahs prop Angus Bell was shown a yellow card in the 28th minute after a series of dominant Queensland scrums on the five-metre line and McDermott quickly capitalised on his side’s advantage. The livewire scrumhalf took a quick tap to catch the visitors’ defence napping and score Queensland’s third try. Hegarty slotted his second conversion of the night to put the Reds advantage out to 19-7.
A pair of Will Harrison penalty goals cut the Reds lead to six in the final ten minutes of the opening half, as Queensland headed to the sheds with a 19-13 advantage.
Harrison’s third penalty goal of the match brought the visitors within three points early in the second stanza, before a Jack Maddocks five-pointer gave the Waratahs their first lead of the game in the 48th minute, Harrison’s conversion making the score 23-19.
Wilson bulldozed his way through the New South Wales defence from close to the line to score and regain Queensland’s lead at 26- 23 with 15 minutes to play, before Taniela Tupou was yellow carded minutes later for a late tackle.
Harrison responded with his fourth penalty goal soon after, with the scores locked at 26-all with 13 minutes to play.
The one-man disadvantage failed to stop the Queensland side, as O’Connor kicked the Reds back in front with a penalty goal in the 76th minute.
A second O’Connor penalty made sure of the result after the siren, as the Reds claimed a memorable 32-26 win in the first instalment of the Super Rugby AU.
Queensland travel south next week to take on the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney.