The St.George Queensland Reds have fallen 45-33 to the Waratahs in their pre-season trial in Narrabri.
Both sides crossed for five tries, with free flowing and attacking Rugby on show for a crowd of over 3,000 in regional New South Wales.
The game looked headed for a dramatic finish with both teams trading tries for much of the contest, before a Filipo Daugunu try delivered Queensland a two-point lead with 15-minutes to play.
It wasn’t to be for the Reds however, as a pair of late tries eventually secured a 12-point win for the home side.
Seru Uru and Daugunu crossed for doubles in the loss, while Waratahs captain Jake Gordon and centre Joey Walton also scored braces in what was the showpiece game of the Santos Festival of Rugby.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: "We got a good hit-out, but far too many errors.
"A lot of the guys have worked hard over the pre-season and they got an opportunity to get out amongst it tonight.
"We've really enjoyed coming here to Narrabri. Everyone has been really welcoming. It's good to bring rugby out here to the country to good rugby people. Well done to Santos for the initiative to come out here," said Thorn
Moses Sorovi opened the scoring for Queensland in the 3rd minute, after the livewire scrumhalf sliced through the New South Wales defence to score off the back of a Jock Campbell line break.
Former Reds squad member turned Waratahs lock Michael Wood replied minutes later with a try of his own, as both sides made the most of their chances with ball in hand early.
The hosts were awarded a penalty try in the 23rd minute, with Queensland lock Ben Grant also shown a yellow card as the Tahs claimed a 12-7 lead.
The one-man disadvantage failed to halt the Reds, as a rampaging Uru busted the New South Wales line to score his side’s second five-pointer. Bryce Hegarty again converted to give his side a 14-12 lead.
Gordon’s first try reclaimed the NSW lead in the 34th minute, the scrumhalf diving over the line after a sustained period of possession and pressure in the Queensland half.
Daugunu forced his way over the line early in the second half to even the ledger at 19-all, before Gordon crossed for his second as the sides traded tries and momentum in Narrabri.
A well worked backline move extended the Waratahs’ lead to 31-19 in the 55th minute, with Alex Newsome finishing the sequence for his side’s fifth try.
Queensland again hit back, this time through Uru who burrowed his way through the defence from close range for his second five-pointer of the night. Lawson Creighton converted to cut the Reds’ deficit to 31-26 with 20-minutes to play.
New South Wales were soon reduced to 14-men for repeated infringements in the ruck.
Daugunu quickly made the most of his side’s newfound space, the Wallaby winger charging on to a deft Fraser McReight short ball before tiptoeing down the sideline to score in the left-hand corner. Hegarty nailed the tough conversion chance to propel his side into a 33-31 lead with 14-minutes to play.
Their advantage wasn’t to last however, with a Joey Walton try putting the home side back into a five-point lead as the game headed into its final ten minutes.
Walton’s second try put the result beyond doubt in the final minutes, with the Waratahs securing a 45-33 win.
The two sides will meet again in Round 1 of Super Rugby AU on Friday February 19 at Suncorp Stadium.