The Waratahs regained their lead in the Australian conference with a free-flowing 52-41 win over the Reds in Brisbane after the Melbourne Rebels had earlier topped the conference with a 20-10 win over the Blues.
The Waratahs responded to the Rebels’ second-ever win in New Zealand with a try-scoring spree with Wallaby star Israel Folau scoring a double among his team’s eight tries.
The Reds led early but the Waratahs proved their dominance to lead 40-19 early in the second before Queensland scored two late tries.
The total of 93 points was the most scored in an Australian Super Rugby derby.
“Offensively fantastic, we were able to walk in some tries, but on the flipside of that the Reds walked some in at the back-end as well, so glad we got the win,” Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper said.
The Reds got off to a flying start, with captain Scott Higginbotham nabbing an intercept from inside his team’s 22m, charging upfield before passing to wing Izaia Perese to dot down under the posts. Hamish Stewart kicked the conversion and the Reds lead 7-0 after two minutes.
The Waratahs hit back quickly, with big wing Taqele Naiyaravoro using his size to draw two defenders before offloading to centre Curtis Rona, who pushed his way over in the corner. Bernard Foley kicked the conversion from the sideline to level the scores at 7-7.
The Reds regained their lead in the 14th minute with Higginbotham touching down from close range, after a strong five-metre scrum set up the attacking raid. Stewart missed the conversion, but the Reds lead 12-7.
Again the Waratahs returned fire, finding space out wide for Michael Wells to cross over. Foley kicked the conversion to give his side a 14-12 lead. They were in again in the 29th minute, with Naiyaravoro using his size to evade three defenders before crossing in the corner. Foley kicked the conversion to extend his side’s lead to 21-12.
The Reds hit back in the 32nd minute with a try to young prop Taniela Tupou, who barged over from short range. Stewart kicked the conversion and close the gap to 21-19.
The Waratahs had the last say in the first half, with Foley notching his side’s third try and converting it to take a 28-19 lead into half-time.
The game looked as though it might blow out in the early stages of the second half, as the visitors pushed out to a 40-19 lead within 10 minutes, off the back of tries to Nick Phipps and Israel Folau.
But the Reds clawed their way back into the contest, with a pair of tries to their forwards – with reserve hooker Alex Mafi forcing his way over from close before Caleb Timu showed why the Wallabies coaches picked him for the June Tests, rampaging his way over the line from 15 metres out. The pair of tries closed the gap to 40-29 with 20 minutes to play.
Again the Waratahs pushed their lead out, with a pair of tries through reserve scrumhalf Jake Gordon and wing Cam Clark. They lead 52-29 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
The Reds had the final say in the game, showing their home crowd they wouldn’t die wondering, as they notched late tries to 18-year-old wing Jordan Petaia and prop Sef Fa’agase.
The match also saw evergreen flank George Smith become the fifth-most capped Super Rugby player of all time, with his 163 appearance in the competition.
Man of the match: Israel Folau was the star of the show. He was immense on attack and he scored two great tries and had a hand in a few others.
Tries: Perese, Higginbotham, Tupou, Mafi 2, Timu, Petaia
Cons: Stewart 3
Tries: Rona, Wells, Naiyaravoro, Folau 2, Phipps, Gordon, Clark
Cons: Foley 6
Yellow Card: Kane Douglas (Reds, 47 – playing the ball on the ground)
Reds: 15 Jayden Ngamanu, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Liam Wright, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Aidan Toua.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (Captain), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Bryce Hegarty
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Will Houston, Jordan Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore