Waratahs beat Queensland Reds to snap losing run as Fraser McReight stars, analysis, highlights, score

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A season of frustration is slowly getting going. But the Waratahs still have a long, long way to go before they can consider themselves Super Rugby contenders despite getting one over their traditional rivals the Queensland Reds.

After going into the sheds level at 17-17 in Townsville, it was the Waratahs that ran out of the blocks in the second half by scoring 18 points in as many minutes to set up their 32-24 victory.

The visitors had the chance to work for a three-try bonus point but opted for a penalty goal in the 76th minute. In the end, the Reds scored a late try themselves but it said plenty of the mentality of the Waratahs, who have struggled to make the leap from second to fourth gear all year.

Nonetheless, the Waratahs will leave feeling very good about themselves after breaking a four match losing streak to win back the Bob Templeton Cup.

Lalakai Foketi scored early in the second half against the Reds Queensland Country Bank Stadium, on May 06, 2023, in Townsville. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Up against three of the bottom five sides on their four-match run home, the victory saw them leapfrog the Reds into sixth spot and the next month will be about building momentum – and keeping their tight five fit – leading into the finals.

“It’s huge for us,” Waratahs captain Jake Gordon said.

“We spoke about that coming into this game, we’re competing with guys around the same mark as us, I think the Reds were one ahead of us so they’re almost double points, and they’re big games and I think we’ve got four to come.

“It’s an exciting time for us. We’ve just got to be more consistent, still not there, but trending in the right way.”

Reds co-captain Tate McDermott lamented the side’s slow start to the second half and their struggles at the set-piece, where they were well-beaten at the scrum particularly.

“They dominated us up front and we weren’t good enough,” he said.

“Just same themes, discipline. That try straight off a linebreak just off the first kick-off. That’s not good enough. We talk about coming out and putting on a good show. I just feel bad for the Townsville folk, we’ve come up here twice and let them down twice.”

McDermott was one of the Reds’ best, with the nippy halfback causing troubles for the Waratahs in the first half.

But the halfback didn’t have enough support and power in the midfield and in the tight-five, with the Reds’ attacking raids not bearing enough fruit as they would have hoped in the first half.

One player that did support him was Fraser McReight. The openside flanker, whose match-up with Michael Hooper was one of a number of intriguing battles, was the best player on the field.

McReight’s link play was as usual excellent, but his ability to get on the ball was again a feature of his match.

It’s his most improved area, with the hard on-baller’s timing paying off.

But unfortunately for the Reds they could do little with it as the Waratahs’ scramble defence holding up well, while their faltering scrum often allowing the visitors to clear their own line.

The Reds look dejected at full time after losing to NSW at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, on May 06, 2023, in Townsville. Photo: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The visitors crossed after just six minutes when Dave Porecki scored from a clinical rolling maul.

His opposite number Matt Faessler ensured the Reds levelled the score when he scored after 12 minutes.

But the Reds shot themselves in the foot as Taleni Seu scored a simple try by spinning out of Taj Annan’s attempted tackle, with the outside centre a late call-up following Josh Flook’s tight quad.

The Reds started to work their way back into the match during the middle stages of the first half as McDermott and McReight got their hands on the ball while Suliasi Vunivalu refreshingly looked hungry for work and lively.

Indeed, the winger made his way centre field and scored a pick and drive try in the 33rd minute to help the Reds to a narrow lead.

But three points from Ben Donaldson’s boot on the stroke of half time from a scrum penalty levelled the scores at half time.

A brilliant bit of play down the short side after Max Jorgensen decided to run the ball back into the defence rather than kick was rewarded shortly after half time as Lalakai Foketi scored.

Harry Johnson-Holmes’ try after 58 minutes had the Waratahs in cruise control before Donaldson’s penalty extended the margin beyond two converted tries, before Peni Ravai got one back for the Reds.

“The first half was probably a little bit disappointing but the way we controlled the second half was really impressive,” Gordon said.

“I thought ‘Donno’ [Donaldson] controlled [the game] really well, got some our big forwards playing on the front-foot playing at the right ends of the field, and I thought our ‘A’ zone execution, which has been a work-on for us, tonight was pretty clinical.”

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