Brisbane – The New South Wales Waratahs edged past arch-rivals Queensland Reds 15-13 in a dour Super Rugby clash in Brisbane on Sunday.
The Waratahs scored two tries to one but trailed the Queenslanders until 12 minutes to go when Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley kicked a penalty to put his side in front.
The win means the Waratahs stay in touch with runaway Australian conference leaders ACT Brumbies, but they had to use all their experience to see off a brave Queensland side that is yet to have a win this season.
The Reds have improved each week since they sacked coach Richard Graham and, on the back of a superior scrum and line-out, they almost pulled off an upset.
“It was a really tough grind,” Waratahs captain Michael Hooper conceded.
“We did some really good things but we were falling back on some poor things we’ve done previously.
“We’re rolling on but hopefully we can get a snowball effect and go from there.”
Hooper said the Waratahs had adapted to the conditions better than their opponents.
“We changed our game plan which worked really well for us — kicking to the corners and playing for position.”
The Reds have had a dominant scrum all season and they quickly took control in the opening stages of Sunday’s match.
They won a series of scrum penalties on the NSW line before New Zealand referee Ben O’Keefe eventually lost patience and awarded the home side a penalty try 10 minutes into the match.
The Reds tried to push home the advantage but Waratahs fullback Israel Folau narrowed the gap with a try in the corner following a superb break up the middle from Waratahs No 8 Jed Holloway.
The Reds looked like taking a 7-5 lead into half-time only to switch off while in attack and lose the ball at the back of the ruck.
Foley gathered the ball and set sail for the Queensland line. He was eventually brought down but NSW moved the ball quickly and Folau strolled over untouched to give the visitors a 12-7 lead at the break.
The Reds continued to play through their forwards in the second half and caused some problems, but whenever they moved the ball to the backs the movement broke down.
Jake McIntyre booted two penalties to put Queensland in front, but the experience of a NSW side featuring a host of Wallabies proved enough, and when the Reds forwards were penalised for failing to release a tackled player, Foley stepped up and made no mistake.
Queensland captain Rob Simmons said conceding the try right on half-time had been a huge blow.
“I’m sick of saying it but we have to learn from these situations,” he said.
“There’s a better feeling going in at half-time when you’re in front.”
Simmons said the Reds needed to do more than just scrummage well.
“It’s something that we’re proud of and something we put a lot of work into, but there’s more to rugby than the scrum.”