The St.George Queensland Reds have maintained their spot on top of the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU ladder with a dominant 46-14 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.
The side ran in seven tries to one in a stellar attacking display, with Alex Mafi scoring a second-half hat-trick as Queensland retained the Bob Templeton Cup and kept their unbeaten start to the season alive.
The bonus-point win brings an end to an eight-year drought against the Waratahs in Sydney, while it also sees the side secure back-to-back away wins for the first time since 2013.
University of Queensland duo Kalani Thomas and Sam Wallis made their Queensland and Super Rugby debuts in the 32-point win, with fellow Red Heavy Angus Scott-Young bringing up his 50th cap for his state in what was the Reds’ largest ever Super Rugby victory over the Waratahs in Sydney.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “It’s always good to get a win, and there was a lot of good things out there and there were a lot of errors as well.
“The Waratahs, five minutes into the game they had already lost two locks so it was a tough night for them.
“There’s some good stuff happening, some mauling, there was some good passages of play with the ball but still too many errors for my liking.
“it’s just valuing that ball and having some patience to build some phases, but in professional footy you have to take those wins.”
A pair of Will Harrison penalty goals gave the Waratahs a 6-nil lead by the sixth minute of play, before a piece of individual Tate McDermott brilliance saw Queensland open their account in the 12th minute.
After taking the ball from the base of a 22-metre scrum in the New South Wales half, the livewire scrumhalf stepped and shimmied his way through the Waratahs defence and raced downfield, carrying three defenders over the line to score his side’s first five-pointer of the night. O’Connor converted to give the Reds a 7-6 advantage.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was next to score, the second rower driving his way across the line close to the right corner post as Queensland dominated field position and possession in Sydney. O’Connor made no mistake with the tough conversion chance to make the score 14-6 in the 30th minute.
O’Connor and Harrison traded penalty goals soon after, before Filipo Daugunu strolled across the line untouched to stretch the Queensland lead to 24-9 at the half-time break. The flying Fijian scored courtesy of an O’Connor cross-field kick, with the winger collecting the kick and stepping infield to beat a number of defenders and score his third try of the Super Rugby AU season.
Taniela Tupou had Queensland’s first try of the second-half in the 51st minute, after some inventive counterattacking play propelled the visitors downfield and gave the prop the opportunity to bulldoze his way through the last line of the New South Wales defence and score his side’s fourth try of the night.
The home side quickly responded with their first try of the match, Will Harris the scorer, to cut their deficit to 13-points 27-14.
Queensland again pushed ahead in the 61st minute, this time through Mafi, who was the beneficiary of a dominant 10-metre rolling maul to go over for his fourth try of the season. Bryce Hegarty added the extras to give Queensland a 20-point lead with 18-minutes of play remaining.
The Waratahs were soon reduced to 14-men with Hugh Sinclair shown a yellow-card, and Queensland quickly capitalised, Mafi going over for his second off the back of another powerful driving maul.
Zane Nonggor was also shown a yellow-card after repeated infringements close to the Queensland line, but it did little to halt the Reds’ momentum, with Mafi sealing his hat-trick via a damaging try-scoring charge from close range. The hooker’s third try and Hegarty’s ensuing conversion sealed a dominant 32-point win for the side over their traditional rivals.
Queensland will take on the Melbourne Rebels next Saturday 3 April at AAMI Park in Round 7 of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU.