On a drizzly Easter Sunday afternoon in usually sunny Queensland the Reds and the Waratahs did battle at what once was the impregnable Suncorp Stadium. Changes to the Waratahs scrum showed they knew they were underperforming in this space while Reds fans were excited to have Liam Gill starting after his return from injury.
The Tahs needed a win off the back of two losses and the Reds, well, the Reds needed to not lose ground and a win would be a bonus.
Thankfully for fans both north and south of the border this wasn’t a tired, soulless match – it had niggle, knees and some stellar tackles. Just what we want from Tahs v Reds.
Unsurprisingly given their scrum dominance this season, the Reds chose to push home this advantage inside the Waratah’s 22 and turned down some plum kicks to enforce their dominance in this space. Inside the first 8 minutes the penalty count was 5-0 to the Reds and after warning Hooper, with Simmons continuing to impress the advantage, O’Keefe decided to award a penalty try and the Reds were up 7-0.
I think that Gibson erred in continuing to name Paddy Ryan and it wasn’t until a new FR came on in the second half that the Waratahs managed to stem the scrum tide. Hugh Roach absolutely must start next week.
Some fundamental errors from the Waratahs in the first half (Foley obstructing Laloifi, numerous offside penalties) meant that they kept the Reds in the game and saw reduced possession. Jed Holloway didn’t let that stop him as he made a break and evaded some poor tackling from Schatz before offloading to Phipps who threw a long pass outside to Folau who crossed for his first try of the night.
Reds fans thought that there was both obstruction and a forward pass that led to this try, but TMO George Ayoub disagreed and O’Keefe awarded the try.
The rain and the humidity did contribute to the slightly greasy ball, but both teams made handling errors outside that, and will need to work on tightness. The Reds, with a young and inexperienced backline continue to frustrate with loose passes and dropped ball. With 66% possession, they need to convert ball time to try time.
Gill in his return for the Reds played an absolute blinder – forcing turnovers, making tackles, niggling and crafting beautiful passes. His wizardry to pinch the ball from a Waratahs scrum feed and make a break demonstrated just how much the Reds had been missing with Browning and Setu starting instead of an experienced and specialist 7.
The Reds created many chances and blew just as many including an absolute sitter when Kerevi couldn’t control the ball 5 metres out and knocked on.
The Waratahs, when they had the ball, generally made good choices. Their cohesion in attack meant that they were able to keep the pressure on the Reds – despite the Reds having led for 41minutes of the first half the Reds went into the sheds behind at half time.
Folau crossed for his second try of the night after a great break from Foley – a turnaround of 60metres after the siren. Izzy’s figures for the night were solid – 86metres with 10 carries and 5 defenders beaten.
Hunt’s figures came the closest for the Reds, but he never even looked like scoring – the Reds need to work on field position and attacking play so that they don’t squander this possession and attacking opportunity.
Controversy found its way into the match when Ready was yellow carded for a knee to Roach’s head. Having watched it several times I think that the YC should actually have been given to Sef Fa’agase – I think Ready was struggling in a collapsed scrum and couldn’t go anywhere, but Sef looked look dirty play – he was on the outside and could have landed differently.
Ready clearly loves playing at this level and continues to drive home his suitability for the starting spot – I know many Tahs fans were calling for a red card for the knee to Roach but I think that the yellow was ok (if awarded to the wrong player), but co-interim head coach (seriously, I think that ‘We’re Hedging Out Bets Coach’ is a better title) thought even that was uncalled for. Citings may tell. The Reds should be shoring up their arguments and accounts to keep this young hooker.
With Ready in the bin the Reds took the opportunity for a penalty kick and came away with the three points – vital to keep the pressure on the Waratahs. Again they were offered and took the penalty to take the lead from the Waratahs – 1 point up, with fingers all around the stadium crossed for the Reds win.
Bernard Foley then did what Bernard Foley does best – keep his head while many about him are losing theirs – and slotted a penalty which was enough for the Waratahs win. It was a messy and intense game played with heart by both teams – just what fans needed.
The Waratahs didn’t have many attacking chances but controlled their play well. The Reds squandered many chances in the last 20minutes – O’Connor has a lot of work to do with the backline attacking structures.
The Reds are still standing too flat-footed in the backline and the Waratahs were very effective in shutting down Nabuli, running him into the sideline and cutting off his support well. Their attack still appears quite disorganised – I wish they wouldn’t look surprised when someone makes a break and they aren’t ready to support him!
The positives for the Reds included Anthony Fainga’a playing like a man given a second chance and was brutally physical in tackles and niggles off the ball. The Reds backline need his experience. Frisby and McIntyre continue to improve as a pairing every match and while I wish they would make different kicking decisions, they are actively attacking. Onwards and upwards.
Holloway is fantastic – he will absolutely be challenging for a green and gold jersey. He works beautifully with the backline off the back of the scrum and I can’t wait to see what he does with the rest of his season.
The Waratahs, eeking out the 2 point win, have a lot of work to do with a penalty count of 17 for the match, with the Reds only conceding 8 in spite of their dominant possession. They are missing scrum magic and need this to have any chance of chasing down the Rebels in second conference spot.
The Game Changer
Ben O’Keefe – wowsers, not since Hoffman’s shocker several years ago have we witnessed refereeing like this. It was the one thing that both Waratahs and Reds fans were united about. Maybe he played it well – both sides felt hard done by, and Stilesy didn’t hold back in the press conference about what he felt were some erroneous decisions. Undoubtedly his impact changed the shape of the game for both teams.[/one_third]
Man of the match
Foley made such a difference to the Waratahs in both attack and points – his goalkicking in the end made the difference.
Looking forward to a good season from him now that he is back.
Special mention to Gill who could have turned the match on its head if he had played more than 40minutes.[/one_third]
Holloway is something else – he is playing out of his skin and working in beautifully with the backs (watch him make the break that led to Folau’s first try). Gill, in his 40 minute return was EVERYWHERE. He outpointed Hooper who played the full 80 and while I know that Chieks will keep playing with Hooper, Gill makes a great argument in 40mins for a jersey in June.
Crowd: not enough to fill up the Reds coffers
Score & Scorers
[one_half last=”no”]Reds: 13
Conversions: McIntyre (1/1)
Penalties: McIntyre (2/3) [/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes”]Away Team: 15
Tries: Folau (2)
Conversions: Foley (1/2)
Penalties: Foley (1/2) [/one_half]
Cards & citings