The Waratahs hosted the Reds for the Bob Templeton Cup at the SCG for the first time in 35 years, which was also the first ever Super Rugby match at that venue. The Waratahs put together a polished but not perfect performance to win convincingly, the final scoreline being 37-16, their 8th win in a row against the Reds.
The win put the Waratahs on top of the Australian conference and 3rd on the overall ladder, having now beaten all teams in the conference and are the only team in the competition along with the Hurricanes to have lost just one match.
The opening quarter saw neither team gain any real ascendency with a lot of errors and indiscretions seeing possession change hands several times. Two Bernard Foley penalty goals and one to James Tuttle saw a 6-3 scoreline after 25 minutes.
The Reds looked like they would be next to score, dominating possession and territory for 10 minutes, but were unable to capitalise and eventually the Waratahs escaped with a Beale clearing kick and then turning over the Reds possession downfield, and nearly scoring themselves if not for a high pass from Hegarty over the head of Foley.
The next phase saw an exchange of box kicks which led to a barnstorming run by Michael Wells down the right sideline and a perfect inside pass to Jake Gordon who sprinted 30 metres for the opening try.
Another Tuttle penalty goal right on the half time whistle saw the Waratahs go to the sheds with a 13-6 lead.
The Reds came out of the blocks harder in the second half, again leading the possession and territory stats and were able to get on the board quickly with a Tuttle penalty goal reducing the deficit to just 4 points.
Minutes later, Lance threw a terrible and even forward cut-out pass into the hands of Naiyaravoro who beat off Aiden Toua to run 60 metres and score his first try of the match, converted by Foley.
Another Foley penalty goal extended the scoreline to 23-9, however Filipo Daugunu pounced on a Waratahs error on half way soon after, scoring his own 50 metre intercept try, converted by Lance.
With 10 minutes left on the clock the Waratahs put together a superb succession of well structured phases before Naiyaravoro finished off the stanza with a close range try, his second for the night. Soon after the Waratahs sealed the deal when Harry Johnson-Holmes was driven over the line, and Bernard Foley converted to finish the night with a 7/7 perfect kicking record.
They did enough to show that the foundation for a top team is in place, but their haste to try and score on every play and their skill errors when they had the Reds at their mercy do not bode well for next week against the Lions.
The Reds have real limitations. Early season form covered some of them over, but they were there for all to see last night. Can their coaching team paper over the cracks and give the Chiefs a game at home next week?
The Game Changer
Naiyaravoro’s 47th minute try ultimately created a match winning lead and his 70th minute one sealed it.
The G&GR MOTM
Michael Wells has really come of age this season and backed it up with a terrific performance last night. Before leaving the field with what looked like a shoulder injury he made 4 carries for 50 run metres, as well as some great work over the ball. For the Reds, it was a disappointing night but Daugunu always looked a threat.
Taquele Naiyaravoro surely has a big circle around his name as a leading contender for the specialist starting winger’s jersey for the Ireland series. He has always been a battering ram but now he looks superbly athletic as well. When does his northern hemisphere contract start? Samu Kerevi was the Reds’ best and is a leading contender for the #13 jersey, whilst Michael Wells and Liam Wright could easily be wider squad inclusions.
Crowd: Not known.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Naiyaravoro (2), Johnson-Holmes, Gordon
Conversions: Foley (4)
Penalties: Foley (3)
Cards & citings: