Waratahs extend streak as kicking costs gallant Reds
Heartache was force-fed to a gallant Reds side on Saturday night in a match in which they could not end their painful losing streak against the NSW Waratahs despite scoring six tries and leading three times.
The Reds hadn't beaten the Waratahs since Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister in July, 2013 and a plain old iPhone 5 was the latest technology.
That is still the painful history to an 11th straight loss in which they enjoyed their biggest lead for six years but still bowed 40-32.
Huge credit to the Waratahs and Bernard Foley at Suncorp Stadium.
When flyhalf Foley had a pass intercept by centre Chris Feauai-Sautia to start the second half, the try to Bryce Hegarty gave the Reds huge confidence and a 22-14 lead.
Foley banged over eight-from-nine with the boot, including the three late penalty goals from the 68th minute that flipped a 32-31 deficit.
The Reds scored six tries to four but Hegarty's one-from-six effort as goalkicker was the worst time to have an off night. He even had one conversion in front charged down by Nick Phipps, a fine rally by the halfback who had made the poor tackle attempt for the try scored by Hegarty.
The Waratahs (26 points) stay alive behind the Brumbies (29) and Rebels (28) in the fight for top spot in the Australian Conference but the Reds (23) are dead as finals hopes.
It was last-chance saloon stuff for both sides and big plays came from both.
New Reds fullback Matt McGahan had a strong game and a pinpoint crossfield kick to find hooker Alex Mafi on the wing produce a surprise try for a 32-31 lead.
There were still 15 minutes to a dream result but it never came.
NSW replacement hooker Tolu Latu is in strife for driving under the influence yet he steered a sure course for a big Waratahs scrum and the key late penalty that Foley turned into three points.
Bryce Hegarty had, by far, his best and most varied game for the Reds at flyhalf and against his former NSW teammates of last year.
Two sharp sidesteps speared him over for his second try, through the flimsy arm of Nick Phipps, to give the Reds a 27-21 lead early in the second half.
In the first half, his best play was to stab a grubber kick through that Lukhan Salakaia-Loto did expertly to swoop on at his bootlaces by bending from his full 1.98m height.
It was still nothing more than a half-chance until the Wallaby popped a pass to McGahan whose quick hands put winger Sefa Naivalu over.
This interstate game was far greater entertainment than many of the grinding editions but there were still only 12,236 fans at Suncorp Stadium to view it.
The four-try first half had plenty of pulsating flow to it from two sides backing very different tactics.
The Waratahs shrewdly played wide and with plenty of quick passing to take the Reds out of their comfort zone while the Queenslanders were content with playing more direct and closer to their forwards.
Both methods worked. Playmaker Foley was slicing over after three minutes after a high-tempo build-up while the quick Reds response was young lock Angus Blyth's pick-and-drive try after a strong scrum.
The Reds went to half-time leading 15-14 thanks to a cracking follow-up try set-up by talisman Samu Kerevi.
Kerevi first blasted through a poor Foley tackle on a shortside raid to put winger Jock Campbell over.
McGahan barked directions from the back like Bob Katter and proved himself a worthy punt
"The game was there for us to take it...I feel like we let the state of Queensland down tonight," Reds skipper Kerevi said.
"We played some awesome footy but we let ourselves down in some key moments."
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson was delighted with the steel to fight back from a 22-14 deficit.
"The boys finally won a close one and we are well in the fight in a tight conference," Gibson said.
"This team fights and the desperation of Cam Clark to get back and save that try was first class (when he turtled a runaway Alex Mafi on the tryline).
Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper agreed: " That was a great win for us because it's all too familiar to look up at the scoreboard at 70 minutes and have the game all in the balance.
"We fight in every game and there were some special moments there like that Alex Newsome try (off a Nick Phipps short ball) because no one sees the walk throughs and the planning to create a chance like that."
NSW WARATAHS 40 (Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Alex Newsome, Michael Wells tries Foley 4 cons 4 pens) QUEENSLAND REDS 32 (Bryce Hegarty 2, Angus Blyth, Jock Campbell, Alex Mafi, Sefanaia Naivalu tries Hegarty con) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Ben O'Keeffe.