The St.George Queensland Reds have suffered a 52-41 loss to the NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The Waratahs outscored the Reds eight tries to seven, with the boot of NSW flyhalf Bernard Foley kicking six conversions to push the score past 50.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “It was an unusual game. The momentum swung a lot. There were some positives, but there were some disappointing aspects too. Our defence and kicking let us down at times.
“In saying that, we played some great attacking Rugby and scored some nice tries. We have a great group of young guys who are learning their trade and you can’t fault their effort. They are putting in.
“Don’t get me wrong, we all hate losing and we’re disappointed not to get the result tonight, but probably the most pleasing thing for me was we fought to the end and the crowd behind us. The score blew out a bit at one point, but our fans stuck with us. I think everyone appreciated the effort from the guys tonight.”
The Reds got off to a flying start, with captain Scott Higginbotham nabbing an intercept from inside his team’s 22m, charging up field before passing to winger 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 winger 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 extended 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 winger 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 winger Jordan Petaia and prop Sef Fa’agase.
The match also saw evergreen flanker George Smith become the fifth-most capped Super Rugby player of all time, with his 163 appearance in the competition.
The Super Rugby season will take a three-week break for the June Test window, after which the Reds will head to Auckland to take on the Blues at Eden Park on Friday 29 June.
The Reds’ next home game is against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday 6 July.
St.George Queensland Reds 41 (Izaia Perese, Scott Higginbotham, Taniela Tupou, Alex Mafi, Caleb Timu, Jordan Petaia, Sef Fa’agase tries; Hamish Stewart 2, Ben Lucas 1 conversions) defeated by NSW Waratahs 52 (Curtis Rona, Michael Wells, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, Jake Gordon, Cam Clark, Israel Folau 2 tries; Bernard Foley 6 conversions) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on Saturday 2 June 2018.