The Queensland Reds ended a seven-year, 11-match losing streak against the New South Wales Waratahs with a 32-26 win over their often bitter state rivals in the opening match of the Super Rugby Australia competition on Friday.
“That was State of Origin and very physical,” Reds skipper Liam Wright said.
“I was buggered out there. We put a lot of passion into that performance.”
The team’s official account had a cheeky sledge for their southern rivals, after a wisecrack about ‘mid-strength beers’ in the lead-up to the clash.
Because of coronavirus-related restrictions, the match was played before a crowd of 5,590 fans in the 52,500-seat Suncorp Stadium. It was the first rugby match in Australia since the overall Super Rugby tournament was halted on March 15.
The Reds led 19-7 early in the first half, but beaten in scrums and without the sin-binned Angus Bell for 10 minutes, the Waratahs collected regular points and finished trailing by six points at halftime.
New South Wales led by four points eight minutes into the second half when Jack Maddocks took a pass from Lachie Swinton and went through a gaping hole for a try.
Harry Wilson replied with a try for Queensland and the score was later level at 26-26 before Queensland flyhalf James O’Connor kicked two late penalties, the second one at full time.
O’Connor took over goal-kicking duties for the Reds after Bryce Hegarty missed two penalty attempts, both to the right of the posts.
“It was an awesome effort by the guys. We dug deep and obviously winning it right at the end was amazing,” O’Connor said.
“‘But we were pretty scrappy … there’s a lot to improve on.
“I’ve been working really hard on my kicking game since isolation … I’m happy to be kicking again.”
New South Wales gave away 18 penalties to the Reds’ nine.
“Although we’re very disappointed with the loss, I think we’re making progress,” Waratahs captain Rob Simmons said.
“To lose by two penalty goals is a marked improvement. We’ll take that and move forward.
“I think discipline really let us down, it’s let us down all season.”
In the other first-round match, the Melbourne Rebels play the ACT Brumbies at Canberra on Saturday. The Perth-based Western Force have a a first-round bye.
The five teams will play home and away matches for 10 weeks followed by a two-week playoff series in September.
The tournament features temporary rules, including goal-line dropouts to reward attacking kicks, replacements for red-carded players and extra time in drawn matches.