Reds vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Waratahs mounted a patient second-half comeback to beat the Reds and remain in the hunt for a Super Rugby playoff spot.

Here's what we're talking about after NSW extended their dominance over Queensland to an 11th consecutive match.

1. Waratahs finally win a close one

The Tahs had lost four games by three points or less earlier this season and were looking down the barrel of another heartbreaker when they were still behind the Reds with less than 15 minutes on the clock. But they stood up under pressure, managing the big moments best in the dying stages, with Bernard Foley icing his chances to put his team ahead.

The Waratahs' effort to best the Reds scrum late in the match was outstanding, while their defensive pressure and determination helped them across the line. While there is much to improve - coach Daryl Gibson was quick to note a more accurate night from Reds kicker Bryce Hegarty could have changed the result - the victory could help the team many rated the conference favourites in the pre-season to finally turn a corner.

Karmichael Hunt in action for the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images

2. Beale in box seat for Wallabies

Kurtley Beale contiunes to shape as a genuine option for Michael Cheika at fullback in the absence of Israel Folau. Beale played a mature hand in the win against the Reds, showing flashes of brilliance as he continues to grow more and more comfortable in the Tahs' no.15 jersey.

NSW coach Daryl Gibson believes he can be an option for the Wallabies, although he has rated Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty as essentially in incumbent fullback with Folau now sidelined, while the Brumbies' Tom Banks is also an option. But Beale brings that X-factor that was such a crucial part of Folau's game.

His chip and regather helped ignite the Waratahs in the second half and he played a mature hand along with Bernard Foley, Michael Hooper and other senior players in cementing their win. Whether he starts or comes off the bench for the Wallabies, Beale will be an important part of Australia's plans at the World Cup.

3. Is Samu Kerevi the form back in Australian rugby?

The stop Kerevi, stop the Reds cry is becoming a league-wide battle call. But for the opening 40 mintues it seemed as though the Waratahs could do little to stop Queensland's outstanding captain.

For all of Bernard Foley's brilliance, Kerevi's ability to swat him away as he broke free before finding Jock Campbell for one of Queensland's six tries, showed just how important he is to the Reds' success. That the Waratahs were able to contain him much better in the second half had as much as anything to do with their eventual victory.

And while Kerevi was hard on himself, taking a share of the blame for the Reds' loss, his importance cannot be denied and the calls will come once again for Rugby Australia and the Queensland Rugby Union to do everything they can to prevent his departure for Japan and keep him in the game here.

 

4. Maturity a must for Reds

Brad Thorn refused to definitively rule out the Reds' finals hopes but the reality is their chances have been dashed for another year. Queensland needed to beat the Waratahs last night - and probably the Rebels the week before as well.

They had chances in both games and are showing glimpses of what they hope to achieve. But as a shattered Thorn painfully pointed out on Saturday night, they are not yet at the level required to play finals football. The Reds remain a work in progress but need to capitalise on their potential soon to ensure their moment does not pass them by.

There's still plenty of potential in this Reds team but for another year, that potential will remain unrealised.

5. Waratahs have strings to their bow

It's not often a team managing to score six tries will lose a game of rugby. But as the Reds found their range with the ball, the Waratahs had to find other ways to get the job done in a performance that could ultimately show them the way forward.

While Michael Hooper claimed his team had not wanted to lock horns with the big Reds pack, they were able to win scrum penalties at critical points in the match, while Foley was able to ice the opportunities presented, to keep the Tahs in the game.

All four of Foley's penalty conversions came in the last quarter of the game, as the Waratahs ramped up the pressure on the inexperienced Reds, showing much greater patience than their rivals, who made errors at key moments when the game was in their grasp.