Reds vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Fri, 03/07/2020, 01:36 pm
Beth Newman
by Beth Newman
The Reds hosted the Waratahs in the opening Super Rugby AU clash.

The Reds and Waratahs opened the Super Rugby AU competition with a physical battle at Suncorp Stadium.

What are we talking about after that one?

1. Reds tick off important milestone

The Reds took their first win over the Waratahs in seven years on Friday night and the way they got there is as significant as anything.

After racing out to an early lead, Queensland looked as though they might throw away another winnable match, something they made a habit of earlier in 2020.

Instead, even after Taniela Tupou was binned and the Waratahs had levelled on the scoreboard, the Reds held their composure and hung on for an important win.

Even small decisions like James O’Connor taking it upon himself to volunteer to take the tee in the final minutes are signs of the right decisions being made under pressure.

This was by no means a perfect evening for the Reds but it is a big monkey off their back and one of the best ways they could have hoped to start this competition.

2. Teams still feeling their way around new rules

Much of the discussion leading into Super Rugby Au has been on the raft of law changes bring introduced to the competition.

On Friday night, fans and teams had their first glimpse

The crackdown on the breakdown clearly had an immediate impact on the speed of the game and though there were repeated scrums early, the overall game had a sense of flow.

Nic Berry blew 27 penalties for the match, which seems intuitively quite high, but if it follows the trend of Super Rugby Aotearoa, expect that number to drop as teams and referees adjust to a happy medium.

Tate McDermott struck the first 50/22 in the 51st minute and Bryce Hegarty gave the Reds a big territorial advantage with a 22/50 also in the second half.

Both of those kicks gave the Reds some timely momentum, and the latter caught Jack Maddocks out on an otherwise stellar night for the Waratahs, but they didn’t fully capitalise on those attacking lineouts.

Reds flanker Fraser Mcreight pulled off an gritty chase down of his opposite number Michael Hooper in the in-goal and instead of Queensland earning a five-metre scrum, the Waratahs had a goal line dropout.

With the threat of a dropout for holding a player up in the in-goal, both teams did seem to work to avoid that scenario and push passes in attack more.

Queensland’s counterattack, courtesy of Hunter Paisami, was impressive but you can’t help but wonder if a five-metre scrum might have turned into five points quicker.

It will take time to see how teams can maximise these law changes but this was an interesting start.

3. Blyth's value starting to show

The Reds will be hoping Angus Blyth recovers from any concussion symptoms by next weekend’s match against the Reds.

With the departure of Harry Hockings and Izack Rodda, Blyth has quickly become their no. 1 lock.

When he was forced off the field in the 14th minute after a head knock, Queensland’s lineout did suffer

Though it wasn’t a fatal blow, it was a reminder of the experience that Queensland has lost in that space.

Brad Thorn put his faith in first-gamer Tuaina Tualima and he was solid but there were some wobbles in the set piece from the team as a whole.

The combination between Blyth and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto is still being forged and they need to be

Obviously, injuries can’t be avoided but trying to ensure that those two play as many minutes together as they can will be important to maintain that consistency.

4. Maddocks finds fit at fullback

Filthy. #REDvWAR #SuperRugbyAU

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Jack Maddocks came to the Waratahs in part to try and have a shot at playing fullback regularly, after sitting behind Wallabies 15 Dane Haylett-Petty

His opportunity came to start in his preferred position on Friday night and he looked instantly comfortable.

Maddocks was one of the Waratahs’ best and earned a big wrap from coach Rob Penney post-match.

The 23-year-old capped off an impressive night with a superb try in the 48th minute to give the Waratahs a sniff, snapping up a stealthy inside ball from Lachie Swinton and bursting over the line.

The next challenge is to keep it up.

5. Next gen starts now

If nothing else, Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium clash should give Australian rugby fans a huge dose of optimism about what the future hold.

The average age of the teams on Friday night was 23.4 and both fielded debutants and many of their rookies were among the best on the field.

Queensland’s rising stars might have more experience in Super Rugby caps but they are still so young.

Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott - all of those players are not even 23 yet and all of them were among the best on Friday night.

For the Waratahs, Will Harrison continues to grow in stature while 23-year-old Lachie Swinton made his impact felt.

Many of these players will make up the core of the Wallabies sides in years to come, along with some of the exciting rookies out of Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.

Most promisingly for Australian rugby fans was that it was these young players who set the tone for the ferocity in the match, and there was plenty of that.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney said he hoped it was a sign of many more enthralling battles.

“I’m massively impressed with the young boys coming through and the Reds who have, they've really made some strides in the last 18 months and we've got a crop of young ones coming through as well, Brumbies have as well, so there's some exciting battles,” he said.

“Hopefully the next 10 years are going to be ding dongs.”

Let’s hope so.

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