A sharp four-try first half from the Queensland Reds set up a confidence-boosting 32-7 victory over the NSW Waratahs in Roma on Saturday night.
New head coach Les Kiss was quick to point out it was only a trial and the true measure of Australian rugby’s oldest rivalry will come on February 24.
The same teams meet in a blockbuster at Suncorp Stadium on February 24 to open the Super Rugby Pacific season.
“There was good speed to our game in the first half and we did a lot of things well for our four tries,” Kiss said.
“The Waratahs came back at us to open the second half. We know everything goes up a level on February 24 when we are playing for points.”
The feature game of the two-day Santos Festival of Rugby started on a high in the opening quarter when centre Hunter Paisami steamrollered over the top of Waratahs fullback Joey Walton for the opening try.
Wallabies hooker Matt Faessler had an excellent game in front of new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, who made the trip to Roma to scrutinise many of the players who will feature in his squads this season.
Faessler’s pinpoint lineout throws enabled a swift flow of ball to the backs while he also made his mark with two tries off well-constructed driving mauls.
“You’ll only see me scoring tries if the whole pack is working well together. That was the positive thing and the way the backs really capitalised with their speed out wide in the first half,” Faessler said.
“What counts is what happens on February 24. No one is getting carried away.” Fullback Jock Campbell had an incisive game from the back. He was floored by Waratahs winger Dylan Pietsch when caught on the chin by a full-body tackle.
Pietsch was yellow carded for that first half moment, the first of two Waratahs’ yellow cards.
Campbell dusted himself off and within minutes was punching a hole through the middle of the Waratahs’ defence to score from 30m out.
Teenaged flyhalf Harry McLaughlin-Phillips played strongly for an hour before Tom Lynagh made his comeback from a back niggle for the closing 20 minutes.
“From the moment we arrived in Roma, we’ve enjoyed wonderful hospitality and a show of what country rugby is all about,” Kiss added.
The Reds’ win was their first in the Santos Cup after the Waratahs’ three previous wins since 2021.
Queensland Reds 32 (M Faessler 2, J Campbell, H Paisami tries; H McLaughlin-Phillips 3 con, pen goal, T Lynagh pen goal) beat NSW Waratahs 7 (Penalty try)