A rousing first half set up a strong 41-7 win for the Queensland Reds over the NSW Waratahs in the Super Rugby Au season opener on Friday night.
Jim Tucker looks at what we learnt.
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1. Reds cohesion
The cohesion of a settled Reds team and a new Waratahs line-up just starting the long road to finding some was the story of the night in a nutshell.
James O’Connor stood tall in his first game as Reds’ captain right until the final seconds when his long ball put rookie Fijian winger Ilaisa Droasese over for a try on debut.
He lead, he stayed cool, he mixed up his passing and he banged over seven-from-seven with the boot behind a Queensland pack that clearly won the physical battle up front.
Waratahs skipper Jake Gordon was the best for the Waratahs, who will need to patch up after some poor defensive reads and not really creating anything for their back three.
2. Attacking fluency on display
The Reds’ brilliant first try emphasised just how much the Queenslanders have improved their attacking fluency since backs coach Jim McKay joined head coach Brad Thorn in 2019. The backs and forwards looked like two separate units at times that first season. There is so much more trust and confidence to the Thorn-McKay partnership now.
No. 8 Harry Wilson’s neat footwork so not to hit the Waratahs’ defence front-on was the start. Continuing the play blindside was quick and telling and utilised winger Jordan Petaia perfectly...he got his arms free and got lock Seru Uru rolling. The great Mark Ella always preached two-touch involvements from five-eighths in plays just like O’Connor did.
Forget that his final pass was probably forward. Excellent try Jock Campbell. Top sequence to celebrate McKay’s 100th game with the Reds as a backs coach of non-stop enthusiasm.
3. Law variation a winner
The 20-minute red card law variation is a winner although the NSW Waratahs were hardly wanting to be the guinea pigs through centre Isaia Perese’s ill-discipline.
His careless flip tackle on opposite number Hunter Paisami just before half-time could have ruined the match.
Instead, the Waratahs dug in with 14 men and the score didn’t budge from 27-7 for the entire 20-minute block.
That was the last of Perese for the night. Eastwood young gun Tane Edmed won a debut as his replacement after the 20 minutes was up and the game went back to 15 v 15.
The fans who paid their money were happy. The spectacle wasn’t ruined for them. Smart rule.
4. Eye-catching makeovers and familiar names.
Brilliant to see the lineage extending from former Wallabies. Jack Grant won a 15-minute debut at halfback when Jake Gordon limped off. He is the son of former Wallaby back James Grant.
One eye-catching makeover evident in 2021 is that of Seru Uru. The Reds have turned him from a lean, barely-used No.8 into an athletic, bulked up lock option.
The Fijian’s handling is excellent. There was the quick transfer of the ball in the Campbell try, a smart pop pass in the lead-up to the first Filipo Daugunu try and mobile involvements.
GORDON OUT!😲— Rugby on Nine (@RugbyOnNine) February 19, 2021
The skipper has been taken off after a NASTY blow in the second half.
Young gun Jack Grant comes on to make his Super Rugby debut!👏
Subscribe: https://t.co/YENiiLMdrK#9WWOS #SuperRugbyAU #REDvWAR @StanSportAU pic.twitter.com/vCPal90RqN
5. Petaia fit and firing
How reassuring was it to see Wallabies weapon Jordan Petaia play a full 80 minutes without an injury or minutes being managed because of a comeback from one?
The Reds’ winger bounced up when flattened by Jack Maddocks, made some forceful tackles himself, got involved on attack and didn’t push a pass impatiently as he did too often in 2020.
The young man is still only 20 and will be so much more confident in his body if he plays a full Super Rugby Au campaign.
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