The Waratahs edged the Reds 15-11 in a forgettable error-strewn scrap in Sydney.
The mudslinging had begun some days before kickoff, and the actual fixture never lacked for intensity. Unfortunately for both teams, they failed to make the most of their opportunities. The Tahs outmuscled the Reds at the scrum and ruled the lineout, while they forced turnovers at the breakdown regularly. The Reds will lament their inability to retain the ball, losing possession in contact or at an attacking ruck with metronomic regularity.
The hosts scored through Benn Robinson after some early forward pressure paid off. The Tahs managed to keep the Reds pinned in their own territory, but only managed one more Kurtley Beale penalty in the first half.
Quade Cooper blew hot and cold, testing the Tahs defence with a series of chips and probes but throwing a couple of shocking passes that cost the Reds momentum. Some poor decision-making also inhibited the Reds’ progress, Charlie Fetoai doing well to break the line but then failing to put a support runner away.
Credit to the Reds, for all their bumbling, they never dropped their intensity. The breakthrough arrived right on half-time when Peter Hynes rounded off a well-worked move. Lachie Turner was lured off his wing to create the overlap, and Hynes’s surge for the corner took the visitors to a 11-10 lead.
Turner made amends early in the second period with a try-saving tackle on Mark McLinden. It was another example of the Reds’ piss-poor decision-making, as McLinden selfishly drove for the line when he had Hynes on his outside. Turner obliged with a copybook cover hit and ensured McLinden was stopped short.
The quality of rugby deteriorated with the Reds matching the Tahs mistake for mistake. Cooper would kick the ball dead, and shortly after a promising Waratahs build up would break down because of a basic error. The Tahs were less impressive at the set-piece after half-time and battled to get front-foot ball. The Reds did well to spoil and win turnovers, but just weren’t good enough to make the most of these chances. To be kind, this match won’t go down in the New South Wales vs Queensland annals as a classic. It was painful to watch.
The Tahs backline looked devoid of ideas on attack, and it was a hit-and-hope high ball by Kurtley Beale that led to the hosts’ second try. Turner chased well on Hynes who handed the ball to a grateful Timana Tahu. The replacement centre had the pace to finish, and with 17 minutes to play, the Tahs were out to a 15-11 lead.
Turner swooped on a loose ball from a lineout in the 77th minute, cut the line and chipped the last defender. Television replays indicated Turner had lost the ball forward in his attempt to gather and place, another disappointing end to a promising assault.
The Waratahs maintain their unbeaten run after four rounds, but their poor handling must be a concern. The Reds continue to affirm their flash-in-the-pan status. Their brand may appear exciting because it’s helter-skelter, but as their previous performances will confirm, it’s far from effective.
By Jon Cardinelli