The NSW Waratahs have escaped with a scrappy 15-13 Super Rugby victory over an improved Queensland Reds side in tough conditions at Suncorp Stadium.
It was far from champagne rugby but NSW were able to overcome the Reds’ scrum superiority and book their second win of the season – and sixth in a row against their oldest rivals.
The result extends Queensland’s search for a maiden 2016 win for another week.
But there were some more positive signs for the competition battlers – even though they were tempered by some maddening mistakes in attack that cost the Reds a genuine shot at victory in front of the 17,247 fans who braved a rainy afternoon.
The Reds were the better team for most of the first half and rode their set-piece dominance to a 7-0 lead, with referee Ben O’Keefe awarding a penalty try in the 13th minute after a series of five consecutive penalties, including three scrum infringements, deep inside NSW territory.
But while they were ferocious at the contest and clear with their intent, the Reds again lacked direction in attack and blundered the chances they were able to carve out, often in the most bewildering fashion.
Queensland’s turnstile defence was also exposed as Israel Folau scored an easy first-half double, which put the Waratahs 12-10 in front at the interval.
Folau’s first came after a 45-metre break from Jed Holloway, who tore away from a scrum and busted through weak tackles from Eto Nabuli and Jake McIntyre, while his second try was scored two minutes after the half-time siren – a sucker-punch for the Reds, who had embarked on a frantic but ultimately fruitless search for their own.
Minutes into the second half, the Reds copped another rather harsh blow as Andrew Ready was sin-binned for dropping a knee into the head of Waratahs back-up prop Hugh Roach, who had fallen to the bottom of the scrum.
While Ready was off the field, the Reds had actually managed to claw back in front thanks to 45th and 49th-minute penalty goals from Jake McIntyre, but could only hold that advantage for so long.
Five-eighth Bernard Foley, making his return from injury, slotted a three-pointer with 12 minutes to go, and then the Waratahs professionally closed out the game, snuffing out Queensland’s attempts to manufacture a winner.