Wendell Sailor copped a truckload of abuse from a hostile 38 000 crowd at Suncorp Stadium, but the winger had the last laugh as the Waratahs edged the Reds 16-12.
A pre-orchestrated campaign by the Brisbane media, which encouraged Queensland supporters to boo their former winger, achieved its objective. Every time Big Dell touched the ball a chorus of boos rung out around the ground. When play stopped the crowd chanted Ã¢â‚¬ËœWendellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a wankerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and when he came close to the touchline spectators hurled abuse his way. To his credit, Big Dell turned to face the crowd and waved his arms aggressively Ã¢â‚¬â€œ urging them to keep it coming. The ex-rugby league star fed on the atmosphere and gave one of his best performances since switching to union.
Forget about state against state, when the Tahs take on the Reds itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hate against hate. It took 30 seconds for the first punches to be thrown and a minute later there was another scuffle.
Local derbies are usually tight and this was no exception as Peter Hewat and Elton Flatley kicked two penalties apiece to see the sides locked 6-all at the break. While the Reds never looked like scoring during the first half, the Sydneysiders came close on two occasions.
As the game entered the second quarter, Tahs centre Morgan Turinui kicked infield for his midfield partner Lote Tuqiri who collected the loose ball. However, Reds scrumhalf Sam Cordingly hunted the Wallaby down just before the tryline.
Tuqiri was involved again on the half hour mark when he darted down the left hand touchline, but put a foot into touch just before the tryline after a good defensive effort from Reds lock Hugh McMeniman.
Despite the Tahs first-half domination, it was the Reds who took a 9-6 lead when Flatley slotted his third penalty kick, 10 minutes into the second half. This prompted a shuffle in the Tahs backline, with Tuqiri moving to the left wing, Hewat replacing Sam Norton-Knight at fullback and Shane Berne coming in at centre. A minute later, and the Reds were out to a 12-6 lead, after yet another penalty from Flatley.
The Reds began to dominate possession and when Hewat missed his second penalty attempt of the night, with 15 minutes to go, it seemed as if the home side would pull off the first upset of the season.
However, the Tahs struck back straight away when Burne threw a skip pass to Hewat, who put flanker Rocky Elsom away for the first try of the game. Hewat made no mistake with the conversion and the Tahs led by a single point.
A minute later, Hewat had a chance to add another three, but again his penalty attempt went wide.
With time running out the Reds worked their way back into the Tahs half only to concede their 17th turnover of the match, which took play deep inside home territory. The Reds then gave away another penalty, which used up valuable time and made it 16-12.
With the siren having sounded the Reds launched one final attack, but the Tahs forced the turnover and Big Dell – who else? – booted the ball into touch.
Reds – Penalties: Elton Flatley (4)
Waratahs – Try: Rocky Elsom. Conversion: Peter Hewat. Penalties: Hewat (3)