Cape Town – The Waratahs dispatched the Reds for an opening win in 2016 in Super Rugby without ever hitting top gear, winning 30-10 in Sydney.
Tries from Michael Hooper, Matt Carraro, David Horwitz and Nick Phipps put the Waratahs in position for a bonus point win, but they had to dig deep to hold out a long attack from the Reds towards the end of the second half, eventually outscoring their opponents by four tries to one – a moment of vindication for the new bonus point system given the contest remained interesting until the end.
The Reds have been clearly weakened by a number of high-profile departures during the off-season and this first hit-out looked like a search for identity, with Jake McIntyre the new man at flyhalf clearly in need of more time.
One bonus for the Reds was the debut of Ayumu Goromaru, the Japan World Cup star, who entered the fray midway through the first half and finished with a conversion and penalty to his name.
A fast start for the Waratahs yielded a penalty for Kurtley Beale, in at flyhalf for the injured Bernard Foley, and that score was soon followed by a thundering maul to get captain Michael Hooper over the line for the first try.
Hooper, in excellent form carrying on from last year, was followed over ten minutes later by Matt Carraro.
After a small resurgence from the Reds despite a yellow card for their captain Rob Simmons following multiple offences, Carraro mopped up a loose ball after neither Zac Guildford or Chris Feauai-Sautia were able to ground it chasing a kick.
Two tries were then three as Horwitz capped his debut with a try, regathering his own kick after putting boot to ball rather than trying to grab a poor pass, with Beale’s second conversion making it 20-0.
Neither side added to the scoreboard prior to half-time, but the Waratahs were in a commanding position.
Something had to give for the Reds after the interval and they started brightly enough with a penalty from Goromaru, to cheers from the Japanese supporters in the Allianz Stadium crowd.
The hosts were unable to recapture their momentum from the first 40 minutes, Goromaru missing a second penalty attempt which could have made matters worse for the ‘Tahs.
Following sustained pressure the Reds grabbed their first try. Multiple scrums sucked in the Waratahs pack before the ball went wide and the flyhalf’s straight line sliced open the drifting defence.
Goromaru’s conversion brought the contest back to life at 20-10, but the Waratahs’ response was instant.
Carraro’s break from deep set up Beale to chip ahead, with Phipps showing remarkable pace to burn Hendrik Tui and win the race to the ball for try number four.
Sam Talakai’s yellow card allowed Waratahs replacement number ten Bryce Hegarty to land a penalty with ten minutes to go making it 30-10, before the Reds looked to try and deprive their hosts of a try bonus point with that late assault on their line.
Despite a yellow card for prop Jeremy Tilse after more frustrations with the scrum from referee Angus Gardner there was no way through for the Reds, with the Waratahs getting that perfect start.
Waratahs 30 (20)
Tries: Michael Hooper, Matt Carraro, David Horwitz, Nick Phipps
Cons: Kurtley Beale (2)
Pens: Kurtley Beale, Bryce Hegarty
Tries: Jake McIntyre
Cons: Ayumu Goromaru
Pens: Ayumu Goromaru