Five things we learnt from Reds-Waratahs trial

Sat, Feb 10, 2024, 10:47 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Hunter Paisami once again impressed for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images
Hunter Paisami once again impressed for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

What you take out of Saturday’s trial in Roma will depend on which side of the Tweed you sit after the Reds claimed their first Santos Festival of Rugby Trophy.

For Queensland fans, the match was a great showcase of the attacking DNA Les Kiss has brought to the club as they were never troubled in the 32-7 win.

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As for the Waratahs faithful, they will be hoping the trial was just further clearing of rust before their opener against the Reds in a fortnight after yet another defeat.

So what did we learn?

1. Hunted

Hunter Paisami is on a mission to reclaim his spot in the Wallabies.

The inside centre has been the player of the trials so far, back at his bruising best that saw the Red become one of the first picked in the Wallabies.

His bump-off of Joey Walton in the 13th minute exposed the makeshift fullback and sent new national coach Joe Schmidt a message as he watched on the sidelines.

He’s all but secured the 12 jersey for the Reds to start the season after James O’Connor’s impressive finish to 2023. O'Connor will battle with Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Tom Lynagh and Lawson Creighton to start inside him at flyhalf, with neither McLaughlin-Phillips nor Lynagh producing that statement performance to make the jersey their own

2. Jocky Balboa

Jock Campbell had an eventufl first half, producing an excellent night at fullback.

He is flourishing in Les Kiss’ system, proving to be the main link to set up the likes of Paisami and Mac Grealy into space.

Questions will be asked about how he stayed on after a high shot from Dylan Pietsch left him dazed on the ground, although his great solo try minutes later showed it had little effect.

It was the type of performance Campbell needed to stake his claim, with Jordan Petaia spending the majority of his time at outside centre when he came off the bench

3. Work to do

Darren Coleman will be thankful his side still has one last hit out before their season opener in a fortnight.

The Waratahs never really got into a rhythm in attack, with a penalty try after a Suli Vunivalu knock-down their only points of the night.

Their scrum was the main positive from the tough night, winning close to half a dozen penalties before falling off when the front-rowers were replaced.

A reminder to Waratahs fans who will potentially overreact to the defeat: the Waratahs defeated the Reds in the corresponding fixture in 2021 before their winless season. The return of Jorgensen, Perese, Porecki and co will add much-needed class to their side.

4. Coming together

After a tough loss to the Force, Reds fans can finally see Les Kiss’ vision into practice.

The Reds have incredible weapons across the park and they were at their lightning best throughout the first half.

The flashy plays will get all the attention but the rolling maul was an underrated weapon, allowing Matt Faessler to cross twice before the break.

If they can find consistency in their attack, they’ll be a really difficult team to shut down in 2024.

5. Roma return

Trials like this are a great way to take the game beyond the capital cities.

The crowd was full of Hawaiian shirts and that matched the vibe as fans enjoyed the contest with two strong sides.

It does also show the pitfalls of taking the game into regional areas, with the ground looking second best and the coverage dropping out just before the first half.

But overall, it’s a nice way to spread the game and has become a staple of the pre-season as the games rotate between Roma and Narrabri 

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