New Waratahs coach Michael Cheika felt NSW cracked under
pressure as Queensland snuffed out their stirring comeback to
claim a gripping Super Rugby grudge match 25-17 on Saturday
The Waratahs gave up 17 points in the opening 16 minutes but
equalised at 17-17 midway through the second half to hold the
momentum in an entertaining Suncorp Stadium clash.
However, it was the fitter and hungrier Reds who finished
stronger to retain the Bob Templeton Cup in front of 35,801
Tireless flanker Ed Quirk was the hero as he barged past four
defenders in a 35m run to set up a sensational match-winning
try to stand-in captain Ben Tapuai, the centre's second of
the night, with six minutes left.
Israel Folau scored on his Super Rugby debut to spark the
Waratahs' fightback but it was otherwise a deflating start
for the code-hopper who had the ball jolted free three times
by big tackles.
Reds winger Dom Shipperley also ran over the top of the lanky
fullback for the first try.
In his first Super Rugby match in charge, Cheika felt NSW
showed good potential but bemoaned their inability to close
out the game - their major downfall in 2012 when they lost
eight games by less than a converted try.
"We've got to learn how to play under pressure," he said.
"We will and we will learn how to play under pressure more
often, more often, more often and the more we do it the
better we will get at it."
Captain Dave Dennis agreed: "We were in control of the game
at 17-all and the momentum was all with us and for some
reason we felt under pressure."
Cheika was also fuming that Reds fullback Mike Harris wasn't
sin binned or white carded for a shoulder charge off the ball
on Adam Ashley-Cooper as he chased a Drew Mitchell chip.
Ashley-Cooper was replaced due to a neck spasm and the coach
wasn't happy that Harris was merely penalised for the
In a far cry from the gritty interstate clashes of years
past, the Reds played a high-octane game which ran NSW off
their feet in the first half.
The 17-3 halftime scoreline was a true reflection of
proceedings as the Reds - with boom youngster Chris
Feauai-Sautia starring - looked flash while their arch-rivals
paid for a litany of bumbling errors.
But the match turned on its head when radar-boot Harris hit
the post with a 45th-minute penalty attempt.
Three minutes later Folau crossed after a Michael Hooper pass
deflected off Digby Ioane into the arms of Bernard Foley, who
easily put the former Queensland league winger over for his
24th try in his 27th appearance at Suncorp Stadium.
Ben Volavola then shredded Harris on the outside to equalise
Harris atoned with a 49-metre penalty goal in the 68th minute
before Quirk and Tapuai sealed the deal off a turnover.
Tapuai, who replaced James Slipper (concussion) as captain,
was full of praise for Quirk and back-row amigos Liam Gill
and Jake Schatz in their battle against an all-Wallabies
"They were unbelievable," the centre said.
"It was a big ask for the young guns to step up but they did
the job and got us over the line."