The Waratahs beat the Reds 28-17 in the 305th interstate clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney.
Both teams scored three tries apiece, but it was the boot of the reliable Bernard Foley that made the difference in the derby, while Bryce Hegarty missed three of his four shots at goal.
Sefa Naivalu’s 66th-minute score had brought the score back to within four points, but it was not enough.
Alex Newsome’s late try killed any hope of the Reds breaking their long-standing inter-state losing streak.
The Reds have now lost eight matches in a row away from home and a tenth on the trot to the Waratahs.
Tahs led 13-nil in the 22nd-minute after Ned Hanigan’s try and the boot of Foley. Hanigan crossed after JP Smith, sent to the sin-bin, infringed.
Queensland fights back
The Reds hit back, scoring when Samu Kerevi crashed over near the posts. Chris Feauai-Sautia scored before the break after Foley’s penalty had stretched the Tahs’ lead.
Curtis Rona extended the home team’s lead after some good work by Kurtley Beale. Brad Thorn’s men never really threatened the Waratahs, who held on to win the Australian derby.
Chances for both teams in the opening minutes
Hegarty missed a second-minute penalty for the Reds, and Beale went close, dropping the ball while reaching to score.
Foley, searching for his 1,000th Super Rugby point, made no mistake to put the Tahs ahead with two penalties inside 10 minutes.
Queensland has not had much success in recent times against their arch-rivals, and things got worse when Hanigan crashed over.
The Waratahs won a penalty after losing a lineout. They went quickly, but Smith’s cynical play impeded Michael Hooper, who had taken a quick-tap.
The visitors were struggling with a full quota, never mind 14 against 15.
The lock won the lineout, Jed Holloway punched his way forward, and after some quick ball, the flanker powered his way over Duncan Paia’aua to score under the posts.
If the Reds did not know they were in for a scrap, they knew now. To their credit, they hit back after putting some phases together inside the New South Wales’ 22.
Izack Rodda went route one. Liam Wright, who was a menace at the breakdown cleaned out Foley, leaving a big hole where a ‘pillar’ would be.
However, the Tahs’ loose forwards were slow to the ruck, giving Kerevi an easy score.
The 25-year-old went to clean out, saw that he did not need to. He then thought about playing halfback, but looked up and spotted the goal line at his mercy.
Jake Gordon tried to stop him, but a scrumhalf is not stopping 108 kilograms of ‘Beast Mode’ from three metres out.
Wright was caught offsides and Foley extended his side’s lead to nine with another penalty-goal.
Reds strike before the break
With halftime approaching the hosts switched off. Isaac Lucas, who was a peripheral figure throughout played Kerevi on the run.
Kerevi sucked in Rona and Beale before sending Feauai-Sautia away down the touchline. The 25-year-old flyer had too much pace for Foley, and Israel Folau did not even attempt to stop the wing from scoring in the corner.
Beale was livid with himself for being duked into tackling the inside man and allowing Feauai-Sautia to race away untouched.
Thorn’s side had struck a blow on the stroke of halftime, but could they sustain the late first-half momentum?
The visitors turned up the heat; they had 71% possession and territory by the final whistle, yet they left without a losing bonus-point.
The second half could not have got off to a worse start for the Reds. Beale gathered Moses Sorovi’s clearance kick and started a counter-attack.
The 30-year-old Wallaby looked up, drew two defenders and sent Rona away down the left-hand sideline.
The winger beat Hegarty, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Sorovi and Feauai-Sautia to the corner flag. The try took the wind out of the Queensland sails.
It was a hammer blow. All the good work was undone by lazy thinking and defending.
The scrums were a mess; the SCG turf did not help, cutting up at every scrum. Kerevi was a lion in defence as the Tahs attacked. Rodda charged down Foley’s clearance, yet it all seemed a bit subdued.
As if the Reds never believed they could get one over the old enemy.
Wright started to take control of the breakdown, but Alex Mafi’s throw, at an attacking lineout took the sting out of a rare opportunity inside the opposition’s 22.
The Reds had the ball, but they could not do anything with it.
Hegarty magic gives false hope
Out of nowhere, Hegarty looked up, saw nobody at home and placed a perfect grubber-kick for Naivalu. The winger accepted the gift and coasted over to reduce the deficit to four.
Unfortunately, another missed conversion kept the score at 21-17 with less than a quarter of an hour to play.
The joy was short-lived. The Waratahs, as they always do against the old foe, went eight phases, punching the ball up with their big ball carriers.
Gordon looked up, saw a gap and put Newsome, who had only been on for about 30 seconds, away. The 24-year-old outside back accepted his scrumhalf’s gift and bulldozed his way under the sticks.
He left Lucas and Hamish Stewart for dead, killing the tie in the process.
Final Score: Waratahs 28 (16) Reds 17 (12)
Tries – Hanigan, Rona Newsome
Pen – Foley (2)
Con – Foley (3)
Tries – Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia, Naivalu
Con – Hegarty
Cards – Smith (Yellow, 20′)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Amy Perrett
TMO: James Leckie
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Alex Newsome.
Reds: 15 Isaac Lucas, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jack Hardy.