VIDEO: O'Connor boot ends seven-year drought
The Reds have ended an 11-game, seven-year losing streak against the Waratahs, defying a second-half comeback to win 32-26 in Super Rugby AU’s Friday night launch.
The Reds cruised to a 19-7 lead, but suddenly looked like the team that hadn’t beaten their border rivals in seven years.
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Crushed in scrums and without the sin-binned Angus Bell for 10 minutes, the Waratahs still found a way to collect regular points and finished the half behind by just six.
Eight minutes into the second half they led by four, when Jack Maddocks streamed on to a Lachie Swinton pass and through a gaping hole.
Harry Wilson sniffed out a five-pointer in reply though, before Taniela Tupou was sent to the bin for taking out a kicker for the second time.
Waratahs flyhalf Will Harrison drilled an equaliser for the visitors, but James O’Connor stepped up with a penalty of his own with three minutes to play.
The No.10 then repeated the dose on the buzzer to seal a-four-tries-to-two victory in front of 5,590 fans.
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Liam Wright and Fraser McReight combined well in their first start together in the back row, while No.8 Wilson continued his strong pre-shutdown form.
Wright scored first and thought he had a second when he ran around the ruck to plant a loose ball in front of a sleeping Waratahs defence.
It was deemed offside though, as was a Tupou effort moments earlier as the Reds threatened to run away with the clash.
Tate McDermott darted in from a quick tap, while Filipo Daugunu crossed in the corner and Harry Johnson-Holmes burrowed over for the Waratahs’ first-half try.
The visitors gave away 18 penalties to the Reds’ nine, with tougher policing of the ruck and the novel 50-22 or 22-50 kicking rules both impacting play.
Man of the match: Jack Maddocks ran 84 metres in his 12 carries and scored an important try that got the Waratahs into the lead. James Ramm and Mark Nawaqanitawase were other big carriers for the Tahs. Michael Hooper (11), Rob Simmons and Gus Bell (both 10) were among the top defenders for the visitors, while Lachlan Swinton’s 12 tackles were a match-high. Bryce Hegarty’s 72 metres from six carries was impressive, but his errant boot let him down. No.8 Harry Wilson 10) was the Reds’ top tackler. Our award goes to Reds flyhalf James O’Connor, who overcame a quiet first half to inject himself into the game after the break – including slotting the two match-winning penalties in the last five minutes.
For the Reds:
Tries: Wright, Daugunu, McDermott, Wilson
Cons: Hegarty 3
Pens: O’Connor 2
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Johnson-Holmes, Maddocks
Cons: Harrison 2
Pens: Harrison 4
Yellow card: Angus Bell (Waratahs, 27 – repeated offences, collapsing the scrum), Taniela Tupou (Reds, 66 minutes – repeated offences, late tackle)
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, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Replacements: 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 (captain), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Tepai Moeroa.
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Jordan Way
TMO: Ian Smith
* Additional reporting by @rugby365com