Waratahs sink Reds in thriller

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A 16-5 penalty count and the right boot of Bernard Foley has sunk the Reds' season, as the Waratahs kept theirs alive with a 29-26 win at Suncorp Stadium.

The Reds scored four tries to two but five Bernard Foley penalties - four in the second half - proved the difference.

Without any doubt, this was the best rugby either team has played in 2017.

There was no fumbling, bumbling sky blue jerseys to be seen, nor were there any in red jerseys, though Queensland were sporting a surprise Maroon kit that not even the players knew about before they arrived at the ground.

Foley's boot may have won the Tahs the game but the performance of Michael Hooper was something else altogether.

He ran harder with ball in hand than any other player, consistently cut blokes in half with his tackles and even added a consistent breakdown presence which is usually absent from his game.

The Tahs came out in fifth gear, blazing away with quick hands across the field which pried space open in the Reds defensive line.

But Izaia Perese was having none of it, making a try saving ankle tap on Cam Clark before intercepting a dangerous Waratahs pass 60 seconds later.Cam Clark was cut down by Izaia Perese as he threatened to score. Photo: Getty ImagesThat sparked the first try of the night, as the Reds worked their way deep into the Tahs 22 before Scott Higginbotham spotted some lazy pillar defensive work.

He picked the ball up, beat a scrambling Michael Hooper and offloaded to Karmichael Hunt, who scored a deserved try.

Hunt was among the best, if not the best, player on the ground in the first 40 minutes, as he continues to fill an impressive portfolio of work to present to Michael Cheika come the June Test series.

Hunt's try put the Tahs down 7-0 with 12 minutes gone but they hit back eight minutes later through Nick Phipps, who burrowed his way over to score a try that referee Paul Williams could see - though he may have been the only person in Suncorp Stadium to have spotted the ball touching the turf.

Queensland's ball handling, passing and line running was at another level tonight and their second try was testament to that.Taqele Naiyaravoro bursts through the Reds line. Photo: Getty ImagesA slick inside ball from Quade Cooper to Hunt was followed by an offload to Lukhan Tui, who used every part of his 198cm frame to stretch out and plant the ball on the white paint.

Tui, like Hunt, was dominant.

There are big wraps on the 20-year-old and he is starting to deliver on that potential.

He brushes defenders at will with big, loping strides and has a pair of hands capable of cleaning up loose ball as well as dishing neat offloads in tight spots.

The Brisbane crowd was brought to its feet when Cooper picked off a wayward Waratahs pass 20 out from his own line and set off for the try line.

He didn't have the legs in him as Clark chased but he did manage a left foot grubber that found its way into the arms of Izaia Perese for Queensland's third try.Michael Hooper was, once again, superb tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesBut the cream of the first half tries - which is saying something - was Michael Hooper's on the half time hooter.

After chopping a Samu Kerevi run down, getting to his feet and winning a penalty two minutes earlier, Clark ran a superb decoy line off second phase scrum ball to draw the Reds defence and Foley put Hooper through from 20 metres out to score.

The Reds had their fourth when Stephen Moore fell over the line off the back of a rolling maul to score his first try since returning to Ballymore but some dubious penalties and the boot of Bernard Foley kept the Tahs in it - the score perched at 26-23 with 15 minutes to play.

That became 26-all with eight to play, Foley slotting one from 38 metres out.

That penalty took the count to 15-5 in NSW's favour - which says all one needs to know about the mood of the crowd come the final siren.

One final penalty shot for Foley after an Alex Mafi "dangerous tackle" was the sealer, as the Tahs defended 25 phases at the death to secure the win.

RESULT

Reds 26

Tries: Hunt, L Tui, Perese, Moore

Cons: Cooper 3

Pens:

Waratahs 29

Tries: Phipps, Hooper

Cons: Foley 2

Pens: Foley 5

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