Dupont, Smith, McDermott? Incredible praise for ‘world-class’ Reds’ halfback as Waratahs sunk in the wet

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For the second night in a row, a controversial series of cards dominated Super Rugby discussion as the Reds hosted the Waratahs – but that’s where the similarities ended.

In wet and slippery conditions that made for attritional rugby, the Reds would learn from the Brumbies’ mistakes against the Force on Friday, conceding only six points to the Waratahs in a period where they were not just one man down – but two.

Prop Dane Zandar’s red card late in the first half for a dangerous tackle on Ruan Smith was soon followed by acting star halfback Tate McDermott seeing yellow for a deliberate knockdown. Reduced to 13 men, the Waratahs must have sniffed an opportunity.

But the Reds weren’t to be denied, holding firm before a trio of second-half tries to Taniela Tupou, Fraser McReight and Jock Campbell – the latter a heartbreaking intercept effort that broke the back of the Tahs – put the game out of reach, eventually claiming the spoils 32-20.

For player of the match and rising star Harry Wilson, the performance was emblematic of the Reds – it takes a challenge to bring out the best in them.

“We pride ourselves on fight, so being a man down, even two men down there, we knew we had to step up,” Wilson told Stan Sport after the match.

“Sometimes we play our best footy when we’re a man or two down, so that always helps us.”

Perfectly suited to the conditions, Wilson led the Reds’ star-studded forwards with aplomb, constantly making life difficult for the Tahs.

Having been overlooked for a spot on the Wallabies’ Spring Tour late last year, the 22-year old’s improvement was lauded by former greats Justin Harrison and Drew Mitchell.

“You just get the feeling that Harry’s going to look you in the eye and listen for every word that you’ve got to say, and you’re going to see it transfer onto the field straight away,” Harrison said on Stan Sport.

“He’s shifting bodies, he’s very skilful, he’s an exciting number eight for Australian rugby.”

Mitchell had nothing but praise for Wilson’s improved physicality, off the back of a pre-season uninterrupted by Wallabies duties.

“Sometimes when a young bloke doesn’t get picked and gets told to go away and work on his craft or build himself up, have a proper pre-season… sometimes, and I can speak from experience, they don’t necessarily go away and do the work,” Mitchell laughed.

“He’s made the most of that opportunity in terms of an extended off-season, a young fella that needs to put a bit more bulk on, work on his game, work on his core skills, and now he’s starting to get the rewards from that.”

But if Wilson’s performance received acclaim, it was nothing compared to what Mitchell reserved for Tate McDermott.

His yellow card notwithstanding, the number nine was at his attacking best, scoring a try in the first half before brilliantly setting up Tupou in the second.

Hamish Stewart of the Reds is tackled.

Hamish Stewart of the Reds is tackled. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)

So good was the 23-year old that Mitchell put his name up alongside some bona fide stars of world rugby.

“We’ve come to expect so much from this guy, he’s a world-class halfback. You talk about Antoine Dupont, Aaron Smith, now you’re starting to talk about this man, Tate McDermott, in the same type of conversation,” he said.

“There’s a lot to like about tonight’s performance, especially after a break – he’s really crisp, he just adds a bit of spark in that team.

“Sometimes, just when you’re in a dressing room and you’ve got someone like Tate McDermott sitting across from you, lacing up, going out alongside you, it just gives you a bit of a lift. You could certainly see the influence he’s had on some of his teammates tonight.”

McDermott himself echoed Wilson’s sentiments – that the Reds love doing it the hard way.

“We make it pretty tough for ourselves, but that’s what we’ve built over the last couple of years,” he said after the match.

“We’re always showing up for the mate next to us. We’re a resilient bunch as well. We make it pretty difficult… but how good.

“That was for Queensland.”

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