Queensland Reds have fallen to a disappointing 31-5 loss to the NSW Waratahs in their final Super Rugby match of the year at Allianz Stadium in Sydney tonight.
The match turned on a decisive 10-minute period in the second half when Reds’ flanker Adam Thomson was yellow carded. Before that NSW were clinging to a slim 3-0 lead but two converted tries while Thomson was off the field put the home team out to a winning lead.
Quade Cooper crossed for a solo try for the Reds while NSW’s four tries were scored by Dave Dennis, Jacques Potgieter, Brendan McKibbin and Dean Mumm.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said it was disappointing way to finish the season.
“It was quite emotional in the change room pre and post game with a number of boys ending their career at the Reds. They have spent a lot of time at Ballymore over the years and it means an enormous amount to them. It’s disappointing we couldn’t finish the season with a win.
“The boys have all worked hard and it has been a challenging year but they have stuck tight and worked to get an outcome.
“We’ve had a number of injuries this season, which has been challenging, however it has meant we’ve had 18 debutants this season, which gives the organisation a good platform heading into 2016.
“The dynamic of the group will naturally change with some very senior and experienced players departing and others being forced to step up.”
As they did last week against the Chiefs, the Reds dominated the set-piece early and had all the possession and territory. But just as last week they couldn’t get across the line, with Cooper missing a long-range penalty shot on 11 minutes.
Cooper then put James O’Connor into a gap after 15 minutes but the young full-back couldn’t control the ball. Karmichael Hunt also just failed to recover a clever Will Genia chip ahead a few minutes later.
In between those half-chances Foley made it 3-0 for NSW with a straight-forward penalty goal on 18 minutes.
On 30 minutes the Reds were forced to go to the bench with O’Connor going off due to a groin injury. He was replaced by Ben Tapuai.
The Reds continued to attack as half time approached, with Cooper and Genia both trying to find an opening, but committed defence from the home side held them at bay.
The second half started the same as the first with the Reds again dominating possession and territory but they still could not get across the line.
NSW then turned on the pressure but the Reds defended courageously close to their line. It got harder though on 49 minutes when the hardworking Thomson was sin-binned.
Even with a man down the Reds scrum held firm but finally the defensive line was broken with Dave Dennis going over for a try on 53 minutes, converted by Foley.
Moments later a long break from Israel Folau set up a try for Jacques Potgieter with Foley’s conversion making it 17-0.
Genia went off soon after to a huge ovation as he signs off after a magnificent career for the Reds.
A superb covering tackle by Hunt on giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro halted NSW’s momentum briefly before they added late converted tries to replacements Brendan McKibbin and Dean Mumm.
As they have done all season the Reds kept trying to the end with Lachie Turner, Thomson and Cooper putting Kerevi down the left touchline, but the hard running centre was pulled down short.
But finally the Reds got a well-deserved try.
Turner was tackled mid-field and popped up a low ball to Cooper who toed it ahead. He then showed superb skill to scoop down and pick up a rebound before outpacing the cover defence to score in the right-hand corner.
Another departing Reds’ legend, lock James Horwill, was also given a huge ovation by all fans at the end of the match.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND 18
QUEENSLAND REDS 5 (Quade Cooper try) lost to NSW WARATAHS 31 (Dave Dennis, Jacques Potgieter, Brendan McKibbin, Dean Mumm tries; Bernard Foley 4 conversions, penalty) at Allianz Stadium, Sydney. (Half Time: Reds 0 NSW 3) (Referee: Nick Briant [NZL])