Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Queensland Reds 25 – 17 HSBC Waratahs Super Rugby Round 2, Suncorp Stadium
It was a new-look HSBC Waratahs outfit that ran out for the season-opener against arch rivals Queensland in a packed-out Suncorp Stadium tonight, eventually going down 25-17 in a fiercely contested Round 2 clash.
After letting the Reds get out to an early 17-3 lead, two quick tries from debutants Israel Folau and Ben Volavola levelled the scores in the second period, setting up a dramatic ending to the Templeton Cup clash.
Although a third try on 74 minutes sealed it for the Reds, HSBC Waratahs captain Dave Dennis praised the side’s character and ambition but admitted that execution let them down in their first competitive match of the season.
“We worked hard to get ourselves back in the game but you just can’t give a team like the Reds that much possession,” the skipper told Fox Sports after the game.
“It was positive that we put ourselves in the position to score tries but we just weren’t finishing them off. It’s our first game but we can’t let that slip, it’s disappointing.”
Of his side’s much improved second half performance, Dennis said, “As soon as we went back to how we wanted to play, we scored two good tries. We held on to the ball and made some good gains.
“We’ve just got to know when to push that pass and when to hold on to it. We created opportunities, we’ve just got to hold on to the ball better.”
Although there were a few first-round nerves on show, there was also plenty of ambition and attacking rugby. The NSW halves combination of Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley showed plenty of promise, with Foley’s width of pass opening up the visitors’ wide game.
It was McKibbin’s boot that opened the scoring after just three minutes but a try from Reds winger Dom Shipperley, converted by Mike Harris, put the home side ahead with seven on the clock.
Another Reds try, this time from centre Ben Tapuai, just minutes later extended the home side’s lead to 14-3, with a Harris penalty stretching the score to 17-3 after 17 minutes.
With two penalty attempts from McKibbin drifting wide, NSW hopes were raised when a chargedown sent Kane Douglas striding towards the Reds line in pursuit of the ball. Although the athletic and industrious lock managed to hold off a chase from Quade Cooper, the video replay showed the ball had been knocked on in the grounding attempt, leaving the HSBC Waratahs chasing down a 14-point deficit at half time.
When Harris missed the posts for the first time, the visitors responded and a 47th minute try from Folau on his Super Rugby debut, set up and converted by Foley, put NSW right back in the game. In his first competitive union game, the try marked Folau’s return to the ground where he played 19 games and scored 22 tries in rugby league. Despite having to contend with plenty of attention from the Reds’ defence, Folau clearly progressed as the game went on.
The impact of another debutant, Ben Volavola, was immediate with the Southern Districts youngster getting some good touches in his first few minutes of Super Rugby. Accomodated at fullback, with Folau moving to the wing following the replacement of centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, Volavola’s presence seemed to ignite the backline and it was his solo sprint from a dummy pass on 59 minutes that allowed Foley to level the scores at 17-all with the conversion.
With the arrival of Wallaby Benn Robinson and up and comer Paddy Ryan, the NSW pack clearly had the upper hand at scrum time. It looked as if the new-look side might complete their comeback to notch up an opening round win until Tapuai crossed for his second of the night with just six minutes remaining.
The HSBC Waratahs will now host the Rebels next Friday at Allianz Stadium, kick off 7.20pm.
Queensland Reds 25 (tries: Tapuai 2, Shipperley; cons: Harris 2; pens: Harris 2) defeated HSBC Waratahs 17 (tries: Folau, Volavola; cons: Foley 2; pens: McKibbin)
Half-time: HSBC Waratahs 3 – 17 Queensland Reds
HSBC Waratahs: 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University), 14. Drew Mitchell (Balmain), 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs),12. Tom Carter (Sydney University), 11. Tom Kingston (Sydney University), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 8. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly), 6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts), 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta),1. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University)
Replacements (all used): 16. John Ulugia (Southern Districts), 17. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 18. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 19. Mitchell Chapman (Unattached), 20. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts), 21. Matt Lucas (Manly), 22. Ben Volavola (Southern Districts)
Queensland Reds: 1. Greg Holmes, 2. Saia Faingaa, 3. James Slipper (captain), 4. Ed O’Donoghue, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Ed Quirk
7. Liam Gill, 8. Jake Schatz, 9. Ben Lucas, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Ben Tapuai, 13. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Mike Harris
Replacements: 16. James Hanson, 17. Albert Anae, 18. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19. Jarrad Butler, 20. Nick Frisby, 21. Jono Lance, 22. Luke Morahan
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Chris Pollock
Israel Folau will make his Super Rugby debut on Saturday when he pulls on the 15 jersey against the Queensland Reds.
Alongside him, in-form youngster Tom Kingston earns a spot on the left wing with Wallaby Drew Mitchell completing the back three.
Flyhalf Bernard Foley recovers from an ankle injury to guide the backline that also features Adam Ashley-Cooper and Tom Carter.
Up front, prop Jeremy Tilse earns his maiden Super Rugby start, completing an otherwise all-Wallaby pack. Now in his eighth season with NSW, the 26-year-old prop’s trial form made it hard for head coach Michael Cheika to overlook him.
“All the front rowers have made it very difficult for me to pick a starting team,” said Cheika.
“Since I’ve been here Jeremy has been working like crazy, he’s strong and fit and he’s hungry. We need guys competing against each other to get us hardened for when we go out into the enemy territory, like on Saturday.”
The side will be led for the first time by new skipper Dave Dennis who becomes the 164th player to captain NSW since 1882 and the 17th in Super Rugby. The game is also head coach Cheika’s first in charge but the former team mate of Reds’ coach Ewen McKenzie says he is relishing the prospect of facing up to arch-rivals Queensland.
“We know we’re going into the lion’s den for our first game but we’re looking forward to it. There’s a lot of self belief in the team,” he said.
With three trial matches under his belt, Cheika believes Folau’s past experiences from league and AFL will help him cope with the big occasion. “It’ll be a pressure cooker atmosphere but he’s experienced that before so he’ll be ready for it.
“A big part of going away from home is getting the fans against you and you’ve got to try and silence them by what you do on the field.”
On the bench, Cheika has opted for a five-two forward-backs split, relying on halves Matt Lucas and Ben Volavola to cover the backline. If Lucas takes the field, he could make his HSBC Waratahs debut opposite his older brother Ben, the Reds scrumhalf.
HSBC Waratahs team to play Queensland Reds
Saturday February 23, 2013
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (7.40pm EST)
15. Israel Folau (Sydney University)
14. Drew Mitchell (Balmain)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)
12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
11. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University)
9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)
8. Wycliff Palu (Manly)
7. Michael Hooper (Manly)
6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain)
5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)
3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta)
1. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University)
16. John Ulugia (Southern Districts)
17. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
18. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University)
19. Mitchell Chapman (Unattached)
20. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts)
21. Matt Lucas (Manly)
22. Ben Volavola (Southern Districts)
Michael Cheika – Head Coach
Alan Gaffney – Assistant Coach
Daryl Gibson – Assistant Coach