Folau soars in record-shattering Super Rugby bonanza
THEY'RE often dogged, tight and ugly affairs - but it was a record breaking points bonanza at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night as the Waratahs once again bettered their traditional rivals, the Reds, 52-41 in Brisbane.
The 52 points scored by the Waratahs was their most ever against domestic Super Rugby opposition, while the 15 combined tries and 93 points were also records in Australian sport's oldest rivalry.
It was NSW's ninth straight win over Queensland.
While eyebrows will be raised by the dodgy defence displayed by both teams, the willingness to chance their arm and throw the ball around was a refreshing change and provided plenty for the crowd to cheer.
With Test spots up for grabs the week before the Wallabies' series against Ireland gets underway at the same venue, there was plenty for Australia coach Michael Cheika and his assistants watching in the stands to chew over.
The Waratahs' backline sizzled with Israel Folau and Curtis Rona among the visitors' best, while Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa did his chances of a Test debut no harm either.
The win saw the Waratahs regain the Australian conference lead on 35 points, jumping ahead of the Rebels (34) who had a short lived stint at the top after beating the Blues 20-10 in Auckland earlier in the day.
"Offensively fantastic, we were able to pretty much walk in some tries out there but on the flip side of that the Reds walked some in at the back end which is disappointing," Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said.
"So glad we got the win - really good effort and really good fight from the Reds, it's always such a tough battle and enjoyable to play up here at Suncorp.
"The tight five for the most part laid a great platform, Simmo's (Rob Simmons) doing some great lineout calling and the backs did what they do.
"We've put ourselves into a really competitive position at this time of the year."
The Brisbane faithful had barely taken their seats by the time the Reds crossed for their opening try, with Izaia Perese scoring inside three minutes after Scott Higginbotham intercepted a long ball from Bernard Foley.
But it didn't take long for the Waratahs to probe the Reds' line again and this time they didn't come away empty handed as Curtis Rona collected an offload from giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro to score just inside the field of play.
Making his first appearance in Brisbane since being let go by the Reds, lock Simmons was penalised for a deliberate knockdown soon after despite clearly being in a position to take the intercept on halfway.
The beneficial field position allowed the Reds another crack at the Waratahs' line and Higginbotham once again showed his knack in finding the tryline, stretching out Inspector Gadget style with his right arm to plant the ball on the chalk.
The developing smarts within Australian rugby continued from the kick restart as Israel Folau plucked the ball out of the air from the Foley drop kick and ran a further 25 metres.
From there, the Waratahs threw the ball wide and Naiyaravoro came close to scoring but got the next best result as he flung the ball back on the inside and won his side a five metre scrum.
The Waratahs capitalised from the field position, as halfback Nick Phipps found Michael Wells in a one-on-one with Izack Rodda and the backrower showed too much strength to score and give his side a 14-12 lead.
Cam Clark was denied a spectacular try soon after as referee Angus Gardner spotted a marginal forward pass on the massive screen projectors inside the ground from hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.
But there was no denying Naiyaravoro in the 29th minute, who showed off his incredible power by tossing aside three Reds defenders like rag dolls to stampede down the left hand sideline to score.
The Reds' young backs then showed off their own skills to make a linebreak in centre field and Taniela Tupou made full use of the momentum to barge over from close range.
But Folau's first try - after the halftime hooter - gave the visitors the momentum going into the break, as he leapt over his overmatched opposite Jayden Ngamanu with ease and touched down in spectacular fashion to take a 28-19 lead.
Some rugby smarts from Phipps from the back of a rolling maul saw the Waratahs make the perfect start to the second half.
Kane Douglas was sent to the sinbin by Gardner after three penalties in quick succession, and when Folau pounced on a kick and ran 50 metres to score NSW looked like running away with the match.
But the Reds showed some fighting qualities as reserve hooker Alex Mafi and Wallabies squad member Caleb Timu scored inside five minutes to cut the margin to 40-29.
Jake Gordon made an immediate impression when he came on for Phipps, scoring in the 63rd minute to extend the Waratahs' lead.
Denied in the first half because of a forward pass, Clark scored the easiest of tries by collecting a Folau pass unmarked to bring up the Waratahs' half century in the 70th minute.
Late tries to winger Jordan Petaia and prop Sef Fa'agase saw the Waratahs lose a vital bonus point, which could come back to bite them when Super Rugby returns in July.
The Reds remain fourth in the Australian conference and out of finals contention.
"It's a bit annoying," Reds skipper Scott Higginbotham lamented.
"There was some really good stuff in there, especially in attack.
"We obviously let ourselves down in defence.
"We just need to be better in that area - you can't light up every time you've got the ball and then switch off every time you don't.
"We've got to work on our skills and structures."